Michelangelo quote identification
September 4, 2014 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I’m trying to authenticate a quote attributed to Michelangelo, and wondering if any art history buffs know of the background information. The quote is: “I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.”

I read Irving Stone’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy' about Michelangelo some years ago, and feel like I first remember reading the line in his book. But as the book is written as a biographical novel, I don’t know if the quote can actually be traced back to Michelangelo himself, or was constructed by the author.

Did Michelangelo in fact say/write this, and if so, where? When? How was it said in Italian, at the time?
posted by raztaj to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Whoops, shows that I don't read Italian. The letter is sort of an expansion on/restatement of that idea, apparently.
posted by supercres at 8:59 AM on September 4, 2014

If this interests you you might also like Michelangelo's Prisoners, so-called because they're still partially trapped in the marble.
posted by Brittanie at 9:10 AM on September 4, 2014

Here's a translation of that letter. The line in question is: "The sculptor arrives at his end by taking away what is superfluous." That's a long way from liberating angels, but it's not hard to see how some author may have romanticized it.

There is another often-quoted version: "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it." You'll find that one in lots of quotation books and sites, and occasionally in a scholarly citation, but it seems nobody attributes it directly to a primary source.
posted by beagle at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2014

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