In 1975, Paolo Dal Poggetto, a museum director in Florence, found a hidden room whose walls were covered in drawings believed to be the work of Michelangelo and his disciples.
Although the drawings are not signed by the master, art experts say some of the sketches in charcoal and chalk are almost certain to be Michelangelo originals. They could shed light not only on the Renaissance artist’s creative process but also on a mysterious and dangerous period in his life.
The room is located in Florence’s Basilica di San Lorenzo. That was the official church of the Medici family, the famous patrons of the arts who governed Florence, and later Tuscany, for centuries.
Around 1520, the Medicis commissioned Michelangelo to design a family mausoleum. It came to be known as the Medici Chapels.
But historians believe Michelangelo eventually betrayed his patrons by joining a 1527 revolt that drove the Medicis out of Florence. When the family returned three years later, Michelangelo is thought to have gone into hiding for months, in the secret dwelling below the chapels.
The hidden room, 23 feet by 6 1/2 feet, was discovered by the museum director who spotted a trapdoor below a wardrobe that led to the room. After cleaning the walls, the museum director discovered dozens of sketches on the walls. Some of the drawings called to mind known works by the master.
Starting from November 2023 the “secret room” will be, finally, open to the public. Moreover, starting from September 27th, visitors can use the new “author exit”, designed by architect Paolo Zermani. It is a large underground multifunctional environment which includes, after decades of closure, the Lorraine Crypt, and a section of the medieval Florentine walls that emerged during the excavations that preceded the architectural intervention.