Battle of the lapiths and the centaurs

(c. 1492; Florence, Casa Buonarroti)
   This sculpture relief belongs to Michelangelo's formative years while training in the Medici household with his master, Bertoldo di Giovanni. The subject of the work, which stems from Ovid's Metamorphoses, was suggested by the poet Angelo Poliziano who was a member of Lorenzo "the Magnificent" de' Medici's court. According to the written account, the Centaurs, half-men and half-horses, stormed a Lapith wedding celebration and attempted to carry off the women. Michelangelo presented the scene as if part of the deep carvings in a Roman sarcophagus. All of the figures are male and nude, the master's favored subject. They emerge from the background and intertwine in complex poses. Though a very early work by Michelangelo, it shows his knowledge of anatomy, even at his formative stages. Muscles stretch and contract in response to movement, and bones, tendons, and other details are rendered accurately.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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