Night (Michelangelo)

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Original statue in Florence
Copy of the statue in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow

Night is a sculpture in marble (155x150 cm, maximum length 194 cm diagonally) by the Italian Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti. Dating from 1526–1531, it is part of the decoration of Michelangelo's Sagrestia nuova (New Sacristy) in the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy.

Night is part of an allegory of the four parts of day. It is situated on the left of the sarcophagus of the tomb of Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici, Duke of Nemours.

Along with his Dawn, Michelangelo drew from the ancient Sleeping Ariadne for his sculpture's pose.[1]

Associated poetry[edit]

In his poem "L'Idéal" from Les Fleurs du Mal, French Romantic poet Charles Baudelaire references the statue:

Ou bien toi, grande Nuit, fille de Michel-Ange,
Qui tors paisiblement dans une pose étrange
Tes appas façonnés aux bouches des Titans!
Or you, great Night, daughter of Michelangelo,
Who calmly contort, reclining in a strange pose
Your charms molded by the mouths of Titans!
(trans. William Aggeler)[2]

In his Life of Michelangelo, Giorgio Vasari quotes an epigram by Giovanni Strozzi, written, perhaps in 1544, in praise of Michelangelo's Night:

La Notte che tu vedi in sì dolci atti
dormire, fu da un Angelo scolpita
in questo sasso e, perché dorme, ha vita:
destala, se nol credi, e parleratti.[3][4]
Night, whom you see sleeping in such sweet attitudes
was carved in this stone by an Angel
and although she sleeps, she has life:
wake her, if you don't believe it, and she will speak to you.[5]

Michelangelo responded in 1545–46 with another epigram, entitled "Risposta del Buonarroto" (Buonarroto's response). Speaking in the voice of the statue, it may contain a scathing critique of Cosimo I de' Medici's governance, according to Kenneth Gross:[6]

Caro m'è 'l sonno, e più l'esser di sasso,
mentre che 'l danno e la vergogna dura;
non veder, non sentir m'è gran ventura;
però non mi destar, deh, parla basso.[4]
My sleep is dear to me, and more dear this being of stone,
as long as the agony and shame last.
Not to see, not to hear [or feel] is for me the best fortune.;
So do not wake me! Speak softly.[7]


  1. ^ Regoli, Gigetta Dalli; Gioseffi, Decio; Mellini, Gian Lorenzo; Salvini, Roberto (1968). Vatican Museums: Rome. Italy: Newsweek. p. 27.
  2. ^ Baudelaire, Charles. Trans. William Aggeler. "L'Idéal."
  3. ^ Vasari, Giorgio, 1511-1574, author. "Vita di Michelagnolo Buonarroti". Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori. ISBN 978-88-6274-759-2. OCLC 993450831.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Michelangelo Buonarroti, Ettore Barelli (a cura di), Rime, Milano, 2001, p. 261.
  5. ^ Kenneth Gross, Dream of the Moving Statue, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006 , p. 92.
  6. ^ Kenneth Gross, ibidem, p. 96.
  7. ^ Kenneth Gross, ibidem, p. 94.