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Tomb of Pope Julius II
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Year1505 (1505)
Coordinates41°53′38″N 12°29′36″E / 41.8939°N 12.4934°E / 41.8939; 12.4934
Preceded bySt. Matthew (Michelangelo)
Followed byMoses (Michelangelo)

The Tomb of Pope Julius II is a sculptural and architectural ensemble by Michelangelo and his assistants, originally commissioned in 1505 but not completed until 1545 on a much reduced scale. Originally intended for St. Peter's Basilica, the structure was instead placed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli on the Esquiline in Rome after the pope's death. This church was patronized by the Della Rovere family from which Julius came, and he had been titular cardinal there. Julius II, however, is buried next to his uncle Sixtus IV in St. Peter's Basilica, so the final structure does not actually function as a tomb.

Hypothetical reconstruction of the first project for the tomb of Julius II (1505) according to a new interpretation by Adriano Marinazzo (2018).[1]

As originally conceived, the tomb would have been a colossal structure that would have given Michelangelo the room he needed for his superhuman, tragic beings. This project became one of the great disappointments of Michelangelo's life when the pope, for unexplained reasons, interrupted the commission, possibly because funds had to be diverted for Bramante's rebuilding of St. Peter's.[2] The original project called for a freestanding, three-level structure with some 40 statues. After the pope's death in 1513, the scale of the project was reduced step-by-step until, in April 1532,[3][unreliable source?] a final contract specified a simple wall tomb with fewer than one-third of the figures originally planned.[4]

The most famous sculpture associated with the tomb is the figure of Moses, which Michelangelo completed during one of the sporadic resumptions of the work in 1513.[citation needed] Michelangelo felt that this was his most lifelike creation. Legend has it that upon its completion he struck the right knee commanding, "now speak!" as he felt that life was the only thing left inside the marble. There is a scar on the knee thought to be the mark of Michelangelo's hammer.



The statues of the Dying Slave and the Rebellious Slave were finished but not included in the monument in its last and reduced design.[12] They are now in the Louvre. Another figure intended for Pope Julius' tomb is The Genius of Victory, now in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Other sculptures for the tomb were the Young Slave, the Atlas Slave, the Bearded Slave and the Awakening Slave. The sculptures of Rachel and Leah, allegories of the contemplative and the active life, were executed by Raffaello da Montelupo, a pupil of Michelangelo. The other sculptures are by less experienced pupils.

See also


  1. ^ Marinazzo, Adriano (2018). "La Tomba di Giulio II e l'architettura dipinta della volta della Sistina". Art e Dossier. 357: 46–51.
  2. ^ Kleiner, Fred S., Christin J. Mamiya, and Helen Gardner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. 12th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2004.
  3. ^ Sweetser 1878, p. 92
  4. ^ Sweetser 1878, p. 107
  5. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1850). Lives of the most eminent painters, sculptors, and architects: translated from the Italian of Giorgio Vasari. Vol. 5. London: Henry G. Bohn. p. 246.
  6. ^ Vasari 1850, pp. 250–252
  7. ^ Vasari 1850, p. 254
  8. ^ Panofsky 1937, p. 566
  9. ^ "Michelangelo Buonarroti: Project for a Wall Tomb for Pope Julius II (62.93.1)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. (October 2006)
  10. ^ Panofsky 1937, p. 577
  11. ^ Panofsky 1937, pp. 561–579.
  12. ^ See Charles Robertson's article in The Slave in European Art,ed Elizabeth McGrath and Jean Michel Massing, London, The Warburg Institute, 2012
  13. ^ Hibbard, Howard (1978). Michelangelo. Penguin. p. 203. ISBN 0140220224.


Further reading

Media related to Grave for Julius II by Michelangelo Buonarroti at Wikimedia Commons