Battle of Cascina – A Sculpture Project

 
Michelangelo's Battle of Cascina, with all figures turnt into silhouette.

Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina (copy by Aristotele da Sangallo), with all figures turnt into silhouette.

Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, there lived an Italian man named Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. As it turns out, he is now simply known to all men as Michelangelo. Not many figures from the past could go by just their first names, but Mr. Michelangelo made that short list. Among many notable creations, Michelangelo was famous for the immortal “David,” the stupendous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the pathos-laden “Pietà,” the awe-inspiring “The Last Judgment,” and then, last but not least, a magnificent mural called “Battle of Cascina”. This last work was perhaps the single greatest loss ever sustained by Art.

For the painting — about a notable battle which took place in 1364 between Pisans and Florentines — has been irretrievably lost. Circumstances prevented it from being even finished, although Michelangelo did create a complete cartoon, where his masterful composition could have been studied quite easily. This cartoon, unfortunately, also failed to survive, destroyed by a man named Bartolommeo Bandinelli, out of sheer spite at Michelangelo’s superiority. This was, after all, life in Italy, at its most operatic. All we have left are a precious few preparatory drawings from the master’s own hand, along with some botched copies of the cartoon from much lesser artists.

Now, I am trying my own hands at adding a third dimension to every single warrior in that half-lost “Battle of Cascina”. Michelangelo thought first and foremost as a sculptor, and I personally believe that all of his painted nudes cry out for another dimension, in which they will come truly alive. It’s such a dream to be able to walk side by side with Michelangelo, as if time does not exist. Minus a few weeks off here and there, since May 2014, I have been consumed in shooting numberless photographic references on anatomical details for the realization of my dream. I even handbuilt a big turntable in April 2013 just to accommodate my models. I’m now continuing the most important step, sculpting them all.

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As seen in the video below, I used the handmade-to-order turntable along with individual models to create studies for my sculptures.

I foresaw quite a stretch of time, not to mention some intense determination, before the whole project could be completed. The magnificent nudes, a realization of Michelangelo’s own unparalleled vision, shall strike a chord in the soul and heart of every Netizen who loves the human form in its full glory. The grumpy Michelangelo always had to hide what he was painting or sculpting from the prying eyes of his patrons, prestige-loving Pope or prim and proper patricians. At least the modern world has created a far better forum for the artist in every man. A first name in M may yet prove a lucky charm for this labor of love, which requires some love of labor.

Eighteen statues would constitute a mini-industry in themselves, and what Michelangelo achieved, single-handedly, has inspired me to barge right on. At least I would not have to lie flat, on my back, against anybody’s ceiling. The biggest challenges for me are the figures whose authentic sketches from Michelangelo’s own hands are available to us, which would expose my final product to the most nerve-wracking comparison on Earth.

I owes a lot of my work to a man named Scott Eaton, who offers excellent classes on human anatomy, in the most purely classical style. He has been the greatest source of hope for me. I think the knowledge I gained from the time I majored in Architecture at Saigon College of Architecture, and the experience I got through an intensive AnimationMentor course online, have both contributed greatly into the overall designs and the individual positionings (postures), respectively. But without Mr. Eaton and his unerring eye for details and style, I would have never achieved what I saw in my mind’s eye. In this whole modernistic world, the purest lines of classicism are becoming increasingly hard to find. I chanced upon Mr. Eaton, and I could feel again a whole direct tradition behind me, Algardi, Bernini, Canova, Donatello, Eaton, and so on until Zolnay, from A to Z.

3D viewer of the work in progress:

INDIVIDUAL WARRIORS:

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