Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dream

Michelangelo Buonarroti
1475 - 1564
The Dream (Il Sogno)
Circa 1533
Black chalk on paper
39.6 cm x 27.9 cm
The Courtauld Gallery, London.

One of the star exhibits in The Courtauld Gallery`s present exhiibition Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from The Courtauld Gallery is The Dream

A naked, sleeping man is woken by an angel. The angel who is  also naked is blowing a trumpet in his face. Behind the sleeping man jostles a circle of figures representing the deadly sins

Its precise meaning has remained elusive.

It is one of the Gallery`s greatest treasures

The sleeping man is being wakened by God`s messenger from his lethargy or comatose state - the Mortal Life - to the bright ever vigilant Eternal Life

It is thought that the work was composed by Michelangel for Tommaso de’ Cavalieri  the great love of his life

Michelangelo always inssisted that the gossips and rumour mongers were wrong and that his love for the young man was strictly Platonic:
“Alas, then, how shall the chaste desire that sets aflame my heart within be seen by those who always see themselves in others?”

It was one of a series of "presentation drawings" which Michelangelo did for the young nobleman and which the young nobleman presented to the court of Pope Clement VII. 

Cavalieri wrote to Michelangelo that they had been admired by ‘the Pope, Cardinal de Medici and everyone’,

In 1568, Vasari said of the drawings that "the like of which have never been seen"

The title and subject of the work bring to mind Plato`s The Republic and in particular The Republic IX

Sleep is compared to "opinion" grounded in sensibles which are both true and false. Wakefulness is compared to "knowledge" which is founded in truth.

A normal person may sometimes have lustful dreams in his sleep.

However a man can become a slave to lust if lustful thoughts predominate in his waking thoughts and acts

The tyrant is a slave to lustful thoughts and erotic love, living as if in a dream and a realm of the unreal, totally oblivious to the truth, to goodness, and to  beauty. 

For the tyrant, the viciousness of his waking activities becomes indistinguishable from the viciousness of his dreams. Unable to distinguish between Truth and Falsehood, the tyrant`s character degenerates and is unable to conduct rational relations with others. 

He lives in Fear and by Fear. A nightmare of the soul which to the dreamer appears to be without end. It is the state which some Christians call "Hell"