Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition

15 March – 25 June 2017

During a recent trip to the National Gallery, sparked by a love of Renaissance art, we booked tickets for the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition.  Quite honestly, though hearing Sebastiano’s name in passing commentary, neither of us had any idea of the great artist he really was.  Interestingly, listening in on passing conversations in the queue to enter the gallery, neither had anyone else and having seen the amount of recent publicity surrounding the exhibition and judging by the amount of people in the queue this lack of notoriety may now be a thing of the past.  [1]

The exhibition was based upon the great friendship between both Michelangelo and Sebastiano and the great works of art the two collaborated on to produce.  Both from very different artistic traditions; Michelangelo’s compositions were prepared in advance with the utmost clarity and precision, through detailed anatomical drawings, whilst Sebastiano was an accomplished painter who preferred a more improvisatory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisatori) method of painting, rich in colour, expressive and bold.

It became clear that this was no ordinary friendship, their collaborations created the most striking pieces of artwork, applauded at the time they were created and still admired today, as some the greatest works of art.

The exhibition largely focused on their relationship and demonstrated through their art and their own personal correspondence, the journey of their relationship, from mutual admiration and respect to bitter acrimony. “Dearest friend, dearer to me than a father, greetings…….  Their friendship which roughly lasted 25 years, began as a ploy by Michelangelo as he sought to create an alliance with Sebastiano to thwart the artist Raphael, whom he detested, though, their sentimental and heartfelt correspondence clearly shows a genuine respect for each other.  This being unusual since Michelangelo was severely temperamental and not one to hold friendships for very long.  Though rivalries were often encouraged and fuelled in Renaissance Italy, to encourage the creation of outstanding works of art.  “…because I do not want Raphael to see mine until he has delivered his, (with reference to the artwork, Raising of the Lazarus). [2]Sebastiano_del_Piombo,_The_Raising_of_Lazarus_(cropped5)

As fascinating as the story is, for me, the star of the show is still Michelangelo, the exhibition seemed a little thin on the ground when it came to presenting his works, probably because the theme was predominantly about the relationship between the two artists.  No one can deny after looking at the Masters’ great drawings how incredible he really was.  The detail and delicacy of his sketches are tantalising to look at and its breath-taking to consider that these preparatory drawings on show, were just the beginning to greater works of art.

[1] Art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon exploring the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition at the National Gallery in London,


[2] The National Gallery Michelangelo & Sebastiano Exhibition Notes