Kid's Art

Michelangelo's First Painting a "Gothic Goof"

The Torment of Saint Anthony was the Metropolitan Museum’s crown jewel all summer: a tiny canvas tucked in the Renaissance wing. But it’s not just any painting. It’s Michelangelo’s first painting, created between 1487 and 1488, when the master was only twelve or thirteen. It’s certainly not the most creative of subjects, as he likely copied a German engraving. And though it seems unlikely that such a treasure would find its way to the Met (it’s been lent from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth), the museum is insisting on its authenticity, exposing it to infared analysis. According to The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl, though Michelangelo’s colors here foreshadow those on the CIstine Chapel, “the grownup Michelangelo would blench,” if he saw his childish work. The work is a “gothic goof,” Schjeldahl writes, and is “less art than artifact and, in the show, a cult object.”