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Medal Winner 2003

Michaelangelo Exstans - Sonnet 89 and the Medici Chapel

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Kevin Donovan
University College Dublin | Ireland
Exstare means to stand outside. The wilful creative artist par excellence, Michelangelo is an outsider, but why? What makes a Mannerist differently mannered. Is he part of something or apart from it?

Exstare means to be ecstatic. Michelangelo’s work seems to have been produced by one who was beside himself with a feeling of some kind. Feeling for what? For whom? What brings one to such a state?

This essay attempts to resolve aspects of the artist’s identity with his means of expression, as poet and architect. First, the Medici Chapel is briefly read as an architectural historical object. Then, a reading of a sonnet composed coevally with the building reveals a coded expression of his sexuality. Finally, the Chapel is re-examined in terms of the poetic code to reveal an otherwise hermetic layer of meaning.

Michelangelo, it appears, is not himself…………………

Kevin Donovan

This dissertation emerged out of a seminar group entitled ‘minds, maps and metaphors’, which explored the ways in which the sense of self is mapped in spatial terms. The range of dissertations produced by the students was very diverse, but Kevin’s exploration of how Michaelangelo’s homosexuality might inform his architecture was perhaps the most memorable. A highly accomplished piece of research and writing, the dissertation seeks to extend our thinking about the (often unconscious) influence of our psychological make-up on the forms we create. Kevin’s strategic decisions - choosing to study Michelangelo; focussing on the Medici chapel; exploring his love poetry and identifying a particularly rich and beautiful sonnet – were all extremely well judged and his research and analysis were marked by a real sophistication, maturity and insight. Moreover, his personal investment in the topic gives the dissertation a resonance and relevance beyond its immediate subject matter. His background in linguistics gives the analysis of the poetry a particular force and density. The description of the powerful figure of Michelangelo undone by love has a real poignancy, as well as offering, in turn, a potent re-reading of his architecture.

Dr. Hugh Campbell
University College Dublin

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