Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : Michelangelo and Sebastiano at the National Gallery – 15th March to 25th June 2017

Exhibition Review : Michelangelo and Sebastiano at the National Gallery – 15th March to 25th June 2017


The National Gallery presents the first ever exhibition which explores the creative partnership between Michelangelo (1475-1564) and Sebastiano del Piombo (1455-1547).

The exhibition features loans from some of the most prestigious art galleries in the world including the only marble sculpture by Michelangelo in Great Britain – The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John, also known as the Taddei Tondo from the Royal Academy, some of the paintings and objects have not left their collections for centuries. There are around seventy works in the exhibition including paintings, drawings, sculptures and letters related to Michelangelo and Sebastiano.

It was in 1511, Sebastiano, a talented Venetian painter, arrived in Rome. He met Michelangelo, who was working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling at the time and the two quickly became friends. The friendship developed into a working collaboration with Michelangelo providing drawings and conceptual ideas. The work produced by Michelangelo and Sebastiano rivalled the work of rival Raphael who had dominated painting in Rome in this period. The friendship between the two artists lasted over twenty-five years before they fell out apparently arguing over a painting technique

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, also known as the Viterbo Pietà (about 1512–16). This painting was Michelangelo and Sebastiano’s first collaboration and represents their combined vision of a large-scale nocturnal landscape. The Lamentation will be united with Sebastiano’s Christ’s Descent into Limbo (1516) from the Museo del Prado, Madrid, and Francisco Ribalta’s 17th-century copy of Sebastiano’s lost Christ Appearing to the Apostles. The three paintings will be presented in their original triptych format for the first time since they were separated in 1646.

The success of the Viterbo Pietà led to two major commissions, both of which were completed with the help of Michelangelo, the decoration of the Borgherini Chapel in S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome (1516–24) and The Raising of Lazarus (1517–19).

The exhibition includes a three-dimensional reproduction of the Borgherini Chapel in S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome created using state of the art digital imaging and reconstruction techniques.

The Raising of Lazarus is an important part of the National Gallery history becoming part of the foundational group of paintings in the Gallery in 1824, where it was given the very first inventory number, NG1. Scientific research on The Raising of Lazarus suggests that Sebastiano’s contribution to be more substantial than previously assumed with Michelangelo revising drawing at a relatively advanced stage.

Among other exhibition highlights is The Risen Christ by Michelangelo, a larger-than-life-size marble statue carved by Michelangelo in 1514–15 lent by the Church of S. Vincenzo Martire, Bassano Romano (Italy). The Risen Christ will be shown with a 19th-century plaster cast after Michelangelo’s second version of the same subject (1528–21), which usually resides in the S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome.

Sebastiano’s Visitation from the Louvre, Paris, and the Lamentation over the Dead Christ from the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, leave their collections for the first time to travel to the exhibition.

This fascinating exhibition charts the two artists friendship against the background of considerable political, religious and social turmoil in Italy. Whilst Michelangelo’s reputation is still strong , Sebastiano has been largely forgotten under the assumption that he played a minor role in the collaborations with his more well-known partner. This exhibition goes some way to reappraise the importance of an artist considered the equal of Raphael in his time.

Our Video Review available here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Gallery website here

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