Thursday Seminar: The Man Who Broke Michelangelo’s Nose


Thursday, December 5, 2019, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Gould Hall, I Tatti
Sculpture of Saint Jerome in Museum of Fine Arts of Seville

Speaker: Felipe Pereda (I Tatti / Harvard University)

Few other Renaissance artists have such a bad reputation as the Florentine Pietro Torrigiano (Florence, 1478- Seville, 1528). Since the invention of art history, the memory of the ‘Man who broke Michelangelo’s Nose’ has been stained by the sin of Envy: It was envy that moved Torrigiano to deform Michelangelo’s face,  per sempre, with the same  fierezza that, according to Vasari, he expressed in his drawings. It is not envy, however, that his biographer highlights as the salient feature of Torrigiano’s personality, but pride, an ambiguous if not paradoxical artistic quality at the time of the “Renaissance.” Pride — the Promethean sin of Romantic arrogance that became crucial in Torrigiano’s legend — but also a complete lack of prudence, both seem to have driven the itinerant life of Pietro Torrigiano: from Florence to Rome, during an extensive period in the army, from Rome to Mechelen, from the Netherlands to London, and finally to Seville, where his death in 1528 in the Inquisition’s jail is now documented. This seminar will present the work in progress of a biography of Pietro Torrigiano, it will discuss some new works included in his catalogue, and finally, it will consider the relation of his legendary life to his work or, in other words, how arrogance and hate, pride and envy, are reflected in the tragic style of his late sculptures.

Felipe Pereda (Francesco De Dombrowski Visiting Professor at I Tatti) is the Fernando Zóbel de Ayala Professor of Spanish Art at Harvard University. He has worked on Iberian late medieval and early modern image theory and artistic culture with particular emphasis on the status of sacred images and the impact of confessional and interconfessional polemics on the arts of this period. His books include El atlas del Rey Planeta (3rd. ed. 2003) and Images of Discord: Poetics and Politics of the Sacred Image in 15th-century Spain (Harvey Miller, 2018). He has recently published on artists such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Luis de Morales, Ribera or Murillo. His latest book, Crime and Illusion: The Art of Truth in Golden Age Spain (Harvey Miller, 2018), approaches naturalism in relation to early modern debates on religious truth, empirical evidence, and philosophical skepticism.