Visitors to be allowed in Florence chapel’s secret room to ponder if drawings are by Michelangelo
FLORENCE: The secret room – a tiny 10-by-3 meters (33-by-10 feet) space – was discovered in 1975, when officials were searching for a new exit from the Medici Chapel to accommodate increasing visitors.
The museum’s then-director Paolo Dal Poggetto “firmly believed that they were by Michelangelo,’’ says current director, Paola D’Agostino.
A fierce debate ensued, and continues to this day.
“The major scholars of Michelangelo’s drawings dismissed the attributions” at the time of discovery 50 years ago, she says. “Others had a more moderate view, in the sense they tough that some could be by Michelangelo and others could be by followers.”
The room was used to store coal until 1955, and then sealed closed and forgotten for decades below a trapdoor that was in turn hidden beneath furniture. The drawings themselves were discovered under two layers of plaster.
According to Dal Poggetto’s theory, Michelangelo hid in the tiny space from “the wrath of Pope Clement VII” for supporting a short-lived republic that overthrew the Medicis, sketching studies for some of his projects.
They include sketches believed to be the legs of Michelangelo’s statue of Giuliano de’ Medici which now sits near the secret room’s entrance. For most of the last 50 years, access to the room has been strictly restricted.
Officials decided to open the room to the public on a limited basis, and will alternate exposure to LED lights with extended periods of darkness to protect the works. Beginning on November 15, up to 100 visitors will be granted access each week by reservation, four at a time, spending a maximum of 15 minutes inside the space.
Regarding the debated attribution of the drawings to Michelangelo, D’Agostino says:
“It’s hard to tell who is right and who is wrong. I think that the argument will be reinvigorated as we open the room to the public, and I hope the scholars will come back, pause, and look at the drawings and start to do more analysis in due course,” she says.