Michelangelo Portrait Gallery

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti (left), and Francesco Ferrucci designing the fortification of the city of Florence. Illustration by Guglielmo De Sanctis.

 De Agostino/Getty Images

Thanks to a broken nose that didn't heal straight, his height (or lack of it) and a general tendency to care nothing for his overall appearance, Michelangelo was never considered handsome. Though his reputation for ugliness never stopped the extraordinary artist from creating beautiful things, it may have had something to do with his reluctance to paint or sculpt a self-portrait. There is no documented self-portrait of Michelangelo, but he did put himself in his work once or twice, and other artists of his day found him a worthwhile subject.

Here is a collection of portraits and other artwork depicting Michelangelo Buonarroti, as he was known during his lifetime and as he was envisioned by later artists.

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Portrait by Daniele da Volterra

A rendering by Michelangelo's student and friend
Public Domain

Daniele da Volterra was a talented artist who studied in Rome under Michelangelo. He was profoundly influenced by the famous artist and became his good friend. After his teacher's death, Daniele was assigned by Pope Paul IV to paint in draperies to cover the nudity of figures in Michelangelo's "Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel. Because of this he became known as il Braghetone ("The Breeches Maker”).

This portrait is in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, the Netherlands.

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Michelangelo as Heraclitus

Detail from Raphael's School of Athens
Detail from Raphael's The School of Athens Michelangelo as Heraclitus. Public Domain

In 1511, Raphael completed his colossal painting, The School of Athens, in which famous philosophers, mathematicians, and scholars of the classical age are portrayed. In it, Plato bears a striking resemblance to Leonardo da Vinci and Euclid looks like the architect Bramante.

One story has it that Bramante had a key to the Sistine Chapel and sneaked Raphael in to see Michelangelo's work on the ceiling. Raphael was so impressed that he added the figure of Heraclitus, painted to look like Michelangelo, to The School of Athens at the last minute.

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Detail from The Last Judgment

A disturbing depiction Detail from The Last Judgment
Public Domain

In 1536, 24 years after the completion of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo returned to the chapel to begin work on "The Last Judgment." Markedly different in style from his earlier work, it was severely criticized by contemporaries for its brutality and nudity, which were particularly shocking in its place behind the altar.

The painting shows the souls of the dead rising up to face the wrath of God; among them is St. Bartholomew, who displays his flayed skin. The skin is a depiction of Michelangelo himself, the closest thing we have to a self-portrait of the artist in paint.

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Painting by Jacopino del Conte

A portrait by a man who knew Michelangelo
Public Domain

At one point this portrait was believed to be a self-portrait by Michelangelo himself. Now scholars attribute it to Jacopino del Conte, who probably painted it around 1535.

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Statue of Michelangelo

Michelangelo Statue

Andy Crawford/Getty Images

Outside the famed Uffizi Gallery in Florence is the Portico degli Uffizi, a covered courtyard in which stand 28 statues of famous individuals important to Florentine history. Of course, Michelangelo, who was born in the Republic of Florence, is one of them.

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Michelangelo as Nicodemus

Michelangelo as Nicodemus

GNU Free Documentation License

Towards the end of his life, Michelangelo worked on two Pietàs. One of them is little more than two vague figures leaning together. The other, known as the Florentine Pietà, was almost complete when the artist, frustrated, broke part of it and abandoned it altogether. Fortunately, he didn't completely destroy it. 

The figure leaning over the grief-stricken Mary and her son is supposed to be either Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea and was fashioned in the image of Michelangelo himself.

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Portrait of Michelangelo from The Hundred Greatest Men

A 19th-century version of a contemporary work

University of Texas Libraries

This portrait bears a notable similarity to the work made by Jacopino del Conte in the 16th century, which was believed at one time to be a self-portrait by Michelangelo himself. It is from The Hundred Greatest Men, published by D. Appleton & Company, 1885.

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Michelangelo's Death Mask

Michelangelo Mask

Giovanni Dall'Orto

Upon Michelangelo's death, a mask was made of his face. His good friend Daniele da Volterra created this sculpture in bronze from the death mask. The sculpture now resides in the Sforza Castle in Milan, Italy.

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Snell, Melissa. "Michelangelo Portrait Gallery." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/michelangelo-portrait-gallery-4122984. Snell, Melissa. (2020, August 28). Michelangelo Portrait Gallery. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/michelangelo-portrait-gallery-4122984 Snell, Melissa. "Michelangelo Portrait Gallery." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/michelangelo-portrait-gallery-4122984 (accessed March 21, 2023).