Secret Michelangelo room in Florence to open to public

For the first time, visitors will be able to enter a hidden cell in the Medici Chapels where Michelangelo is thought to have covered the walls with sketches.

Secret Michelangelo room in Florence to open to public
Drawings believed to be by Michelangelo in the Medici Chapels' secret room. Photo: Claudio Giovannini/AFP.

Until some 40 years ago, no one realized that it existed. And when curators discovered a secret room beneath the Medici Chapels in the Basilico di San Lorenzo in Florence, its walls covered in what appeared to be unknown sketches by the Renaissance master Michelangelo, they ordered it sealed to the public for conservation.

But the secret Michelangelo room could soon be permanently opened to visitors for the first time in history.

Florence’s Bargello museum, which also runs the Medici Chapels, wants to open the long-lost chamber to the public by 2020, Ansa reports.

Until now, only a few art experts – and the occasional lucky guest – have been permitted to enter the narrow cell, where historians believe that Michelangelo hid out in 1530 after he betrayed his patrons, the Medicis, by joining a revolt against their rule of Florence.

He resurfaced around two months later, when he was permitted to resume work on the Medici family’s monuments in the same chapel beneath which he had been hiding.

The artist, then 55, is thought to have spent the time doodling. The chamber’s walls are covered with sketches in charcoal and chalk, several of which resemble figures from Michelangelo’s other known works.

Photo: Claudio Giovannini/AFP.

Scholars disagree on whether, which and how many of the drawings are by Michelangelo. Some don’t seem good enough to have come from the master’s hand, while others echo such masterpieces as the statue of David, a drawing of Leda and the Swan, or parts of the Sistine Chapel.

The sketches were rediscovered in November 1975, when the director of the Medici Chapels museum at the time, Paolo Dal Poggetto, was trying to find a new route for visitors to exit. He found a trapdoor hidden beneath a wardrobe in the Medicis’ tomb room, which led down to a rectangular room that at the time was used to store coal.

Dal Poggetto had the chamber cleared, the walls – by then covered in coal dust, mould and mud – cleaned and the plaster removed fraction by fraction with scalpels. Gradually not only drawings but calculations, words and graffiti began to emerge.

Considered too fragile to open to visitors, the room remained sealed. In 2014, to mark the 450th anniversary of Michelangelo’s death, the museum created a virtual tour of the hidden chamber so that the public could at least admire it on a screen.

Opening the Michelangelo room comes as part of a plan by the Bargello’s director, Paola D’Agostino, to carry out renovations, reopen closed galleries and extend opening hours. 

Photo: Claudio Giovannini/AFP.


The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.