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Michelangelo “Tag” in Florence?

Michelangelo “Tag” in Florence?
15 July 2016 2 Comments

A piece of graffiti by a genius called Michelangelo or is the past pulling our leg today?

The story goes, (and an ancient city like Florence is drenched in such stories), well, in fact, there are two stories to tell but first come with me to the brooding Palazzo Vecchio in the middle of old Florence, still lording over the city and still standing guard on Piazza della Signoria. Just to the right of the main entrance as you enter you will see the rather cumbersome and testosterone packed statue of Hercules and Cacus, and just behind it against the wall is a stone bench much used by tourists who have, by the time they have reached here, begun to fade during busy days of sightseeing! Standing in front of that bench, just look a little above it and there, you’ll see it if you focus your eyes. Worn into the very stone of the Palazzo is the most famous work of antique “graffiti” in Florence, if not the world.

You will clearly see the profile portrait of a man, cut into the very stone by none other than Michelangelo. But why, I can hear you splutter, and the answer to that question falls into two distinct stories that have come down to us through the centuries. The first story goes along these rather incredulous lines. When Michelangelo was being pestered by someone who insisted on telling him long winded, boring and unconnected stories, with his chisel and mallet in hand, the master carved the rambling storyteller’s portrait in the wall of the Palazzo while pretending to listen to another irrelevant story of this blow-hard. Up to this day those Florentine’s in the know still call the figure in this piece of carved graffiti as L’Importuno

The second and more believable story I think has it that Michelangelo was loitering around the Palazzo Vecchio taking in the common sight of a prisoner brought to the front of what was then the Town Hall of Florence for execution. Moved by the criminal’s noble and defiant expression he decided there and then to capture it before the man was executed. Caught between the impending execution and the need for stone he turned to the wall he was leaning on and looking back over his shoulder to view the man, he began to carve into the stone with the sure hand that was a sign of his genius a portrait of sorts of the soon to be dead criminal. What Michelangelo captured in a few moments in stone was a profile caricature of the soon to be dead man. Who knows if that image struck a chord with the great sculptor or whether he forgot about it moments after etching it into stone; perhaps more focused on a nearby tavern and something to wash down the distaste of another public execution in his fine city?

I do know that today, if you give yourself a moment, you will enjoy one of the secrets of Florence, created by one of her greatest artists; a scribble in stone by Michelangelo.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

2 Comments

  1. Peter Reply

    This is a good question Robin and like many stories surrounding great artists and personalities in a city as ancient as Florence one should treat such a story “with a grain of salt” however where there is smoke there is fire. We know Michelangelo was an avid watcher of life and executions attracted his attention as they did most people of the time; so a little doodle to while away the time by the great man may be what is etched into the wall by his deft hand.

  2. Robin Duff Reply

    How is it known that Michaelangelo was the ‘artist’?

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