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Did Michelangelo carve a graffiti portrait in Florence?

Museum curator finds evidence to support claim that Michelangelo was indeed behind the mystery portrait in Florence.

A carving of a man’s face on the walls of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, often attributed to Michelangelo in Florentine legend, may indeed be the work of the Renaissance master, a museum curator has claimed.

Adriano Marinazzo spotted the uncanny resemblance between the mysterious carving and the drawing of a face by Michelangelo in the Louvre Museum, reports Artnet News.

Writing in the Italian journal Art e Dossier, Marinazzo outlines the similarities between the 16th-century sketch and the simple wall carving on the façade of Palazzo Vecchio: both portray a curly-haired man with a prominent nose and brow, in profile.

The Virginia-based curator, who previously identified one of Michelangelo’s earliest sketches of the Sistine Chapel, told Artnet News that he "had an epiphany" after noticing the likeness between the two portraits while working on a forthcoming book and exhibition relating to the Sistine ceiling.

He also draws attention to a note scribbled beside the drawing: “Who would ever say it is by my hand?” Marinazzo suggests that this enigmatic message may be a subtle reference to Michelangelo's authorship of the Florentine carving.

Adriano Marinazzo discovered similiarites between a sketch by Michelangelo and the mysterious carving at Palazzo Vecchio. Photo Artnet News.

The drawing was made around the time that Michelangelo was commissioned to create his celebrated sculpture of David, which would find itself placed next to the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio in 1504.

The carved face, which looks out toward the very spot where David would have stood, was left intact during a 19th-century renovation of Palazzo Vecchio, implying that it held some significance, said Marinazzo in his paper.

Given the importance of Palazzo Vecchio as the city hall of Florence, the building would have been well guarded, making it difficult for an unknown artist to get away with such an act.

And, although the 29-year-old Michelangelo was a well-established figure, he was “still impish and ambitious enough to do whatever he could to direct audiences to his David,” Marinazzo told The Wall Street Journal.

The curator highlighted a further connection to David by suggesting that the man portrayed in the carving may be Francesco Granacci, a friend of the artist who sat on the committee that approved the placement of the famed sculpture, reports Artnet News.

The landmark graffiti is known as the L’importuno di Michelangelo or Michelangelo's Graffiti, and can be found at the corner of Palazzo Vecchio nearest the Uffizi Museums.

The face has intrigued visitors to Florence for centuries and it is surrounded by various legends involving Michelangelo.

Some say he made the face as a dare, or out of boredom, others suggest that the artist captured the likeness of a man who was being dragged to the gallows.

Photo credit: TamasV /

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Address Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

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Did Michelangelo carve a graffiti portrait in Florence?

Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
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