Crouching Boy Close Up

Appreciating Michelangelo’s Work at the Hermitage

Barely more than an arm’s length away, Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy rests behind ropes in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini.

Barely more than an arm’s length away, Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy rests behind ropes in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini.

Of the many things to appreciate about St. Petersburg’s Hermitage—in addition to the vastness and quality of its art collection—is the opportunity to experience so much of it up close and in a luxurious atmosphere. While some more contemporary museums ooze sterility—with security so brisk that viewers are kept at a very safe distance from particularly valuable masterpieces—the Hermitage lures, with its open windows in the summertime and with its cats and head-scarf wearing docents. The place feels like Russia should feel—a land of contrasts of richness and practicality, of masterpieces and corded ropes.

Some consider Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy, originally intended for the Medici Chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, to be an unfinished work. Indeed, he does not have the chiseled smoothness of David, created 30 years prior. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini.

Some consider Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy, originally intended for the Medici Chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, to be an unfinished work. Indeed, he does not have the chiseled smoothness of David, created 30 years prior. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini.

A visitor can still lean in and capture the Crouching Boy up close. He is the center of attention but seems to seek some privacy. Created by Michelangelo between 1530 and 1534, the work is believed to have been created for the Medici chapel in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. Some see an awakening soul; others see death in the sculpture. Some see an unfinished work. At the very least, Crouching Boy emits a distinctly different life force than that seen in Michelangelo’s David, which was created between 1501 and 1504. The Crouching Boy is reportedly the only work by Michelangelo in the Hermitage.

Hermitage Museum, 2 Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia

—Lori Tripoli

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Have you visited the Hermitage? Which artwork did you like most?

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