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The Dream of Human Life
After Michelangelo
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This painting by an unknown artist is based on Michelangelo’s drawing The Dream (Courtauld Institute, London). Michelangelo’s presentation drawings were made as gifts for his friends and were always intended as self-sufficient works of art. The Dream is probably one of an important group of such drawings that Michelangelo gave to the young Roman nobleman Tommaso Cavalieri in 1532–3.

The art historian Vasari used the title ‘The Dream’ (’Il Sogno') in his 1568 edition of The Lives of the Artists. There is no other contemporary document to explain the composition’s meaning, but it appears to explore contemporary ideas about the ascent of the soul to the divine aided by beauty. The angel awakens or animates the perfect youth, drawing him away from the illusions and deceits of the earthly realm of sin to a new spiritual life in harmony with the will of God. Representations of the seven deadly sins are seen in the background.

Key facts
Artist After Michelangelo
Artist dates 1475 - 1564
Full title The Dream of Human Life
Date made after 1533
Medium and support Oil on slate
Dimensions 65.4 x 55.9 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG8
Location in Gallery Not on display
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