23 Apr 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

The Grocery List of March 18, 1518 sketched by Michelangelo

3 min read

You can’t sculpt like Michelangelo, but you can eat like him! What did Michelangelo Buonarroti, one of the most famous artists of every age, eat? The Italian genius thrives on a diet of fish, bread, and lots of wine. Preserved at the Casa Buonarroti museum in Florence, Italy, this 500-year-old shopping list was written and illustrated by the sculptor/painter/poet/personality on the back of a letter. Michelangelo’s servant was likely illiterate, so Michelangelo sketched out what he wanted to eat. Compiled on March 18, 1518, Michelangelo first wrote the text and then illustrated it with various sketches. The result? A memorandum understandable even by an illiterate servant!

The list begins with “Pani Dua” and includes tortelli, herring, spinach, wine, anchovies and fennel soup. The menu consists mostly of vegetables, fish, wine, and bread. This might seem particularly healthy , but the absence of meat-based dishes should not make us think about Michelangelo as a vegetarian ante litteram, but the letter is dated March 18, 1518, so around the time of Lent. In fact, the Easter, 500 years ago, fell on April 4th.

Although today it may seem a fairly ordinary menu, for the time when it was written it denoted a living standard of a wealthy person, with significant financial resources compared to ordinary people.
By 1518, Michelangelo had already finished many of his most famous works, including the Pietà, the David, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But among all his incredible work, this rough list is perhaps the most down-to-earth version of the artist himself. Try to imagine the famously Michelangelo taking the time to illustrate for his servant what he wanted for dinner!
At that time Michelangelo was in Florence, and had just won the contest to build the facade of the church of San Lorenzo, organized by Pope Leo X (Giovanni di Lorenzo de ’Medici son of “the Magnificent”).
In addition, the survival of this list is remarkable. Only around 600 of Michelangelo’s sketches still exist and 1518 marked the year that Michelangelo burned many of his early drawings, and 46 years later, he ordered many of his papers to be torched in anticipation of his death.
Maybe he wanted to preserve the aura of divine genius that surrounded his art, and a grocery list showing his sketched dinner might not have given the right impression!

Images from Web. Contributed by Nathan.