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Sleeping Cupid | Michelangelo’s Roman Sculpture

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Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Capresse, in the province of Arezzo and his first creation was The Sleeping Cupid. His father, Ludovic di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, was at that time mayor of the place. And of the neighbouring town of Chiusa. From the very woman who had nursed him, he later claimed, he had learned, along with the milk, the art of sculpting and performed Sleeping Cupid.

The “Sleeping Cupid” is the first masterpiece of Michelangelo that was lost in Mantua after it entered the collection of Isabella D`este. A copy of the ‘Sleeping Cupid’ statue is now in the collection of Corsham Court. Wiltshire and comes very close to the artist’s original statue.

In reality, Michelangelo took up a career as an artist because of his father’s wishes. Some believe that the artist’s first drawing was of a male figure. Found in the Buonarroti family home in Settignato.

What is the Lost Cupid?

Michelangelo produced a wooden crucifix (1493). Which he gave to the prior of the church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito.

Early in his career, Michelangelo sculpted a Cupid (now lost) in the Ancient Greek style. Seeing his work, his patron Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici suggested they make a con together. 

The young artist stayed in the Eternal City for the next few years and eventually received a commission to sculpt Pieta, the work that made him famous as an artist.

To whom was the Cupid sculpture sold?

For Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco, Michelangelo also sculpted the work “San Giovannino”, now lost. The best known of the Magnificent’s cousin’s alleged commissions remains ‘Spring’, painted by Sandro Botticelli.

Buonarroti’s “Cupid” sculpture was sold to the first buyer, Cardinal Riario, and the marble was probably subjected to an ageing process to make it look as if it came from antiquity.

It seems that the idea was that of an important Florentine patron and client of the sculptor Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici. Also, Michelangelo wrote over 300 poems, including “Dante”, “Heavenly Loves”, “Joy Can Kill”, and sonnets dedicated to Tommaso de Cavalieri, a good friend of the artist.

Sleeping Cupid

In what year did Michelangelo sculpt the Sleeping Cupid?

In 1942, after Lorenzo’s death due to political conflicts, Michelangelo returned to his childhood.
There he continued his artistic studies. Among his world-renowned works are the statues “David” and “Pieta” and the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. But the artist also wrote poetry, especially sonnets and madrigals, and was passionate about art.

In 1495, Michelangelo in the early months worked on two sculptures “St. John the Baptist” child, which was lost and The Sleeping Cupid.

Two years after settling in Rome, in November 1497, the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres, requested the Pieta sculpture. 

For how many popes did Michelangelo work?

Michelangelo earned an almost mythical reputation as one of the most prominent men of the Renaissance and counted popes and kings among his admirers and patrons. Temperamental and brilliant, Michelangelo created several masterpieces, including ‘David’, ‘Pieta’ and also the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Since 1505, Michelangelo has worked for nine consecutive Catholic pontiffs, from Julius II to Pius IV. His work for the Vatican includes everything from ornamental handles for the papal bed. To painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for which he worked to exhaustion for four years.

Michelangelo rarely signed his work and did not leave us formal self-portraits. But sometimes hid stylised self-portraits in his paintings and sculptures.

Other works by Michelangelo:

The Entombment

This is an undetermined work whose authenticity has been the subject of dispute. Experts agree that it is in the style characteristic of Michelangelo’s early career. Details suggest that it was this painting that remained unfinished because in 1501 the artist returned to Florence.

The Oracle of Delphi

In the Sistine Chapel, alongside the figures representing Old Testament prophets, there are female figures, portraying clairvoyants and Oracles. These were women who had the gift of prophecy and foretold the coming of Jesus. 


The artist was still young, but Bachus is considered to be his first great work, in which he already anticipated certain features that he would develop fully throughout his career, such as references to Antiquity, which were very common at the time.

Primary Takeaways

  • Michelangelo was Italian by birth and continued to make sculptures and other exciting art throughout his life in Italy.
  • Once Michelangelo’s talent entered the spotlight, thanks to the infamous act of forging the sculpture of the sleeping Cupid. He never looked back and soon achieved his first great success.
  • Michelangelo sold The Cupid to Cardinal Raffaele Riario for a considerable sum of money, but soon Cardinal Raffaele Riario heard rumours that the piece was a fake and so got his money back.


So to make a money, Michelangelo forged a Roman sculpture known as the Sleeping Cupid. So, the critical part was to make it look old and original. And also Michelangelo did this perfectly by treating it with acidic earth and smudging it.

Set face to face in an intimate, grey-tinted room, these variations on the same theme, which correspond to different phases of the life of the artist who died at the age of 88 (1475-1564), offer a striking contrast. For the director of the Florentine museum, Timothy Verdon, this is a unique opportunity to “observe Michelangelo’s intellectual maturation in the sacred, highlighting the link between life and art in this faithful sculptor who was in the service of the popes during the crucial period of his career”.