Raymond Carlson (Oxford) 'Michelangelo and the Salvageability of Desire'


Among the hundreds of poems written by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), a substantial proportion are given to amorous topics. To whom Michelangelo addressed his love and his verses, however, has resisted definitive consensus despite attracting commentary for nearly five centuries. This talk redirects the question of identifying the object of Michelangelo’s love to how his creative output makes this knowable to history. By analyzing an array of archival and literary sources alongside a subset of Michelangelo’s drawings, it becomes apparent how his poetry functioned in tandem with his art to convey desire. In its mutability, desire can be difficult to define. Is it recoverable through material traces that survive in ink and chalk? Such inquiry must navigate the dense social networks in which Michelangelo operated, but as this talk will argue, the impulse to recoup this story also responds to a promise of reclamation at the heart of his work.


Raymond Carlson is a Fellow by Examination at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. He completed his BA in Italian Language and Literature and History of Art from Yale University, followed by two MPhils in the European Literature and Culture and History of Art and Architecture at the University of Cambridge, where he held the Paul Mellon Fellowship in Clare College. He earned his PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University. His scholarship has been supported by the American Academy in Rome, Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dutch University Institute for Art History in Florence, and other sources. His publications have appeared in Italian Studies, the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, various museum catalogues, and other venues. His first book project, from which this talk derives, is a study of the relationship between Michelangelo’s art and poetry.