Sleeping Cupid (Michelangelo)

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The Sleeping Cupid was a sculpture created by Renaissance artist Michelangelo, which he artificially aged to make it look like an antique on the advice of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco. It was this sculpture which first brought him to the attention of patrons in Rome.[1]


Giulio Romano's Young Jupiter in National Gallery, London, possibly contains a citation of Michelangelo's Sleeping Cupid

In 1496, Michelangelo made a sleeping cupid figure and treated it with acidic earth to make it seem ancient. He then sold it to a dealer, Baldassare del Milanese, who in turn sold it to Cardinal Riario of San Giorgio who later learned of the fraud and demanded his money back. However, Michelangelo was permitted to keep his share of the money.[2][3] When Michelangelo offered to take the sculpture back from Baldassarre, the latter refused, saying he would rather destroy it.[4]

The Sleeping Cupid was a significant work in establishing the reputation of the young Michelangelo, who was 21 at the time.[5] The sculpture was later donated by Cesare Borgia to Isabella d'Este, and was probably collected by Charles I of England when all the Gonzaga collections were bought and taken to London in the seventeenth century.[2]

In 1698, the Sleeping Cupid was probably destroyed in the great fire in the Palace of Whitehall, London.[2]


  1. ^ Entry on "Cupid," The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 245; Stefania Macioe, "Caravaggio and the Role of Classical Models," in The Rediscovery of Antiquity: The Role of the Artist (Collegium Hyperboreum, 2003), pp. 437–438.
  2. ^ a b c Sheila Gibson Stoodley (August 2008). "Misadventures in Collecting". Arts and Antiques.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Michelangelo's Cupid". Museum of Hoaxes. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  4. ^ Rona Goffen (2004). Renaissance rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Rafael, Titian. Yale University Press. p. 409, note 83.
  5. ^ Deborah Parker, Michelangelo and the Art of Letter Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 11; Rona Goffen, Renaissance Rivals: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian (Yale University Press, 2002, 2004), p. 95.