Scripted behavior : Michelangelo's evolving calligraphy and artistic self-representation
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In the age of digitization, archivists, scholars, and art historians have questioned the role of documents once they have been transcribed, published, and stored away in digital repositories. If the information is recorded and saved, how else can a manuscript speak to the art historian? Archival materials such as personal correspondence and manuscripts are traditionally divorced from an individual’s larger corpus of artistic output. The texts themselves are mined solely for information that can inform a work of art, and are typically not regarded for their own formal qualities. This thesis challenges such a practice, asserting that personal letters, particularly those of Michelangelo Buonarroti and his contemporaries, should be approached as artistic artifacts whose formal qualities alone offer a wealth of information regarding the artist and his social context. Focusing on the social implications of Michelangelo’s shift from using the mercantesca script to the cancelleresca script used by humanists and papal dignitaries, this paper proposes that developments in Michelangelo’s writing style mirror other efforts the artist made to construct a distinct identity. Ultimately, this thesis argues that by the dawn of the Cinquecento, script was an integral aspect of personal identity creation and professional reception for a Renaissance artist.