Victor Aguiar Magalhães
a graphic artist based in São Paulo, Brazil

Da Michelangelo a Tommaso
︎︎︎ Illustration

Collage triptych representing the three drawings Michelangelo sent to his secret lover, Tommaso dei Cavalieri, while he was recovering from a serious disease.

The first depicts the myth of Ganymedes, a love story between Zeus and the young male of Troy, the most beautiful of mortals. Hypnotized by his charm, the god descends, in the shape of an eagle, and abducts Ganymedes to serve for eternity as his cup-bearer in Olympus.

The second, the myth of Tityos. The giant attempted to rape Leto, at the behest of Hera, the most conservative of the goddesses, but was laid low by the arrows of Leto’s twin children, Apollo and Artemis. As punishment, the immortal was sentenced to eternal torment in Tartarus: stretched and bound, two vultures were sent to feed on his liver, which grew back overnight to be eaten again the next day. In ancient Greece, the liver was often thought to be the seat of human emotions.

Lastly, the third represents a study of Jesus for his fresco on the Last Judgement, to be painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Tommaso responded to Michelangelo appreciating the first two drawings, but never commented on the last, deliberately or because it was hidden on the back of the second.

In the words of a dear friend “Michelangelo was an old man for its time, with a broken nose, and tormented by his sins (a.k.a. being gay, or at least liking men). He couldn’t desire the love of Tommaso or the everlasting pleasure of Ganymedes. He felt unable and inadequate to be loved. As a matter of fact, the body of Christ emerged from the shadow of Tityos, and it’s interesting that the worn-out body of the latter served as a template for the reconstructed and luminous body of the former; almost as if him was to say: ‘my feelings for Tommaso are capable of transfiguring my exhaustion into strength and youth again.’ It’s a pity he never noticed, or omitted to talk about the third drawing. Michelangelo must have carried this torment to his deathbed”.