Since Charles de Tolnay first published them in 1940, Michelangelo's drawings for the fortifications of Florence have stimulated considerable scholarly interest. Tolnay likened the zoomorphic shapes of Michelangelo's sketches to crustaceous creatures. The analogy has become a commonplace, and while helping to describe the formal appearance of these unexpected designs, it has led most scholars to question their purpose and practicality. Furthermore, every scholar has followed Tolnay's general view that the series proceeds from the simple to the complex, with the drawings becoming increasingly abstract and fantastic. This paper proposes that Michelangelo's process of design was exactly the opposite. Beginning with abstract and complex ideas, Michelangelo proceeded to develop and refine his conceptions in a series of drawings that reflect a rational process of design. This hypothesis is more in accord with the historical facts and the documentary evidence and is based on a close analysis of the drawings themselves. The 20 sheets preserved in the Casa Buonarroti are evidence of Michelangelo's practical concern with particular problems of Florence's defense in 1528-1529 and represent the first stage of his successful activity as a military engineer for the Republic.
- Copyright 1987 The Society of Architectural Historians