Michelangelo’s Grocery List

032714-michelangelo-listAccording to a 16th century handwritten grocery list, the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo ate fish and bread like everyone else.

On a list of 15 grocery items with accompanying illustrations, the artist requested fish, bread, two fennel soups, a herring, four anchovies, tortelli, and wine, among other items. Michelangelo sketched the food items not just for the fun of it, but rather because his servant was illiterate.

The grocery list is archived at the Florence museum Casa Buonarroti, where one can find more of the artist’s handwritten notes, and works of art such as Madonna of the Stairs.

This same grocery list appeared in an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum a few years ago, alongside eleven other drawings, also from the Casa Buonarroti. However, this grocery list, along with any sketches of masterworks of art rather than the works themselves, is the opposite of what Michelangelo would have wanted the public to see.

Michelangelo left behind many sketches that depict the creative process behind his masterpieces, such as the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508–1512) and the Last Judgment fresco (1536–1541). Yet it seems that these drawings were never meant to be seen by the public. Art historians note that Michelangelo was a perfectionist and he did not want anyone to see anything less than the flawless, completed works.

Despite Michelangelo’s best intentions to keep his non-masterpieces private, this grocery list comes across as inspired, if only because it reminds us that even famous artists need to eat.

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