Living in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Italian High Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer Michelangelo… had only to send assistants off to market to bring back what he needed. Though vanishingly few of this prolific creator’s papers survive today, we do happen to have a few of the grocery lists he sent with them, like that which you see above.
John Updike once wrote that â€œexcellence in the great things is built upon excellence in the small,” and the observation holds up ideally when we think about Michelangelo’s numerous great achievements â€” PietÃ , David, The Last Judgment, St. Peter’s Basilica â€” in comparison to this humble yet striking rundown of ingredients for a meal, of the same basic kind each of us scrawl out regularly. But when Michelangelo scrawled, he scrawled with both a craftsmanâ€™s practical precision and an artistâ€™s evocative flair. â€œBecause the servant he was sending to market was illiterate,â€ writes the Oregonianâ€˜s Steve Duin in a review of a Seattle Art Museum show, â€œMichelangelo illustrated the shopping lists â€” a herring, tortelli, two fennel soups, four anchovies and â€˜a small quarter of a rough wineâ€™ â€” with rushed (and all the more exquisite for it) caricatures in pen and ink.â€ As we can see, the true Renaissance Man didnâ€™t just pursue a variety of interests, but applied his mastery equally to tasks exceptional and mundane. Which, of course, renders the mundane exceptional.
29 Jul 2017