Alongside masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the statue of David, Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti was known to have left behind a plethora of artistic secrets. One of these hidden treasures includes a trove of charcoal and chalk sketches in a cellar beneath Florence’s Basilica of San Lorenzo, one of the chapels belonging to the powerful Medici family, where the great artist is thought to have sequestered for two months to reportedly escape a retaliatory death sentence ordered by Pope Clement VII.

Many historians believe that when the Medici family regained power in Florence in 1530, the Pope, who was a Medici family member, ordered for Michelangelo to be executed because of his participation in the revolt that led to the family’s exile in 1527 as well as his work for the city’s brief Republican government. This death sentence was later repealed by the Pope, who supposedly even re-commissioned him for other projects.

For centuries, this vault of drawings remained unknown until 1975, when a museum director discovered a trapdoor leading to the chamber during a renovation project. 

Now, the forgotten room will open to the public for the first time on November 15, allowing visitors to view dozens of drawings of human figures that have been attributed to the Renaissance artist until it closes on March 30, 2024, according to an announcement made by the Musei del Bargello, the Florence museum that operates the 16th-century chapel and four other sites around the city.

“This very small environment is truly unique due to its exceptional evocative potential,” said Francesca de Luca, curator of the Museum of the Medici Chapels, in a statement. “Its walls seem to barely contain the numerous sketches of figures, mostly of monumental format.”

Capping the weekly number of visitors at 100, the museum will allow groups of four people to descend down the narrow stairway that leads to the secret cellar where people can view the sketches for 15 minutes at a time “in order to protect the designs and maintain adequate conservation conditions,” the museum said in its announcement.

“The limited number of attendance per time slots is due to the need to interrupt the exposure period to led light for extended periods of darkness,” the museum explained.

Tickets will cost 20 euros ($21.20) for adults; for people under 18 years-old, tickets are free. Hyperallergic has contacted the museum for additional details.

Maya Pontone (she/her) is a Staff News Writer at Hyperallergic. Originally from Northern New Jersey, she currently resides in Brooklyn, where she covers daily news, both within and outside New York City....

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