Posted by: Debra Kolkka | May 14, 2014

Michelangelo’s graffiti

Clutching Secret Florence in my hand, I headed to the Piazza Signoria for another find. I have stood in front of David at the Palazzo Vecchio many times, but I have never seen the tiny sketch carved on the wall behind him.




Stand in front of the statue of Hercules and Cacus.


Now walk behind the statue, look up.



That bit isn’t actually relevant, but it is a nice view. Now turn around and at about eye level near the corner of the Palazzo Vecchio is this.


Michelangelo is said to have carved this  little profile into the building. One version of the story is that Michelangelo sketched a portrait of a prisoner waiting his turn at the gallows, but there are others.

Whatever is the truth, it is incredible that a piece of Michelangelo graffiti exists. Look for it next time you are in the magnificent Piazza Signoria.



  1. That book of yours is a treasure and thanks for sharing. I am blown away.

    • The book is full of great stuff. I am going to work my way through it…and Secret Venice when I go there in June.

  2. Wow, these images are powerful stuff. I never saw anybody post a photo of the graffiti! What a find. I never knew the story, either. What book is Moira talking about? You have a book?

    • The book is called Secret Florence by Niccolo Rinaldi. I did a post called Secret Florence about my first discoveries on 23rd April. The book is wonderful. It is fun to wander around Florence looking for these often unobserved things. I have been to Florence dozens of times and not seen this little bit of graffiti.

  3. The statue is cool, but, yes, the graffiti is even more amazing! Just hope it wasn’t some poor guy waiting to be executed. But then again, I guess he’s lived on.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • It is a bit grim to think about public executions taking place in the centre of Florence. I think we are safe now.

  4. Hahaha…yes, it was a nice view, thank you. 🙂 The graffiti is fantastic!

    • I think it is great that it is still there.

  5. Hi we are in florence at the moment and I found the head of the bull that you showed us on secret florence! We are having a fab time.

    • Now you can look for the graffiti on Palazzo Vecchio. Have a wonderful time in Florence. I was there yesterday. Go to Giacosa behind the Roberto Cavalli shop in Via Tornabuone for a delicious coffee, snack and people watching.

    • Thank you debs, just on our way out now, we are going to look for the graffiti and have a coffee where you recommend.

  6. Beautiful photos! 🙂

    • Thank you. It is easy when you have a great subject.

      • 🙂

  7. My dad, the florentine historian of the Francini family, swears by the fact that it is a Michelangelo sketch of Dante, who he was watching while in the piazza!!!

    • That is amazing. I will look with new eyes next time.

  8. It does seem your more enamored with their credentials , than their history Debra :):)

  9. Can’t wait for you to visit Venice with the relevant book clutched to your person

    • We will be there in 2 weeks.

  10. So many nooks and crannies in Florence, and in Italy in general. Those statues, I remember those very well. What an eye you have, Debra. That behind bit is hilarious!

    • Ow, this reminds me of a post by timelessitaly – Why did Michelangelo put horns on Moses?. But I see you already commented on that post.

    • I love discovering new things.

  11. Deb, that book is a gem. I stood by that statue for quite a while, even going around it. Not once did I notice the graffiti. I didn’t even think to look for secrets. How intriguing. I wonder who it was… Of course I have a million stories in my head. I cannot wait for more.

    • The book is going to keep me busy for a long time.

  12. We will look at it next week when we are in Florence. Thanks Debra

    • There are lots of interesting little secrets in Florence.

  13. amazing – must get this book!

  14. How fascinating! Shall get my hands on the book before I return to Florence. or better still meet you there 🙂

  15. Yes, you are very cheeky with your rear view photo of Hercules, Debra! 🙂
    That little piece of ‘graffiti’ from Michaelangelo….now, that’s fascinating! Will look for it next time we’re in Florence.

  16. Great book and a great article too. Secret Florence sounds fascinating.
    All those little things that most tourists would miss. Must get a copy.
    What a fabulous city Florence is; you could spend a long time just getting to know it.

  17. Thanks for yet another gem. There’s always something new to see, especially if one is adeptly pointed in the right direction. .

  18. We will check it next time and I have to get that book! Thanks, Debra!

  19. Will do Deb…. and I’ll think of you!

  20. bahaha laughed out loud about walking behind the statue and looking up….nice view indeed!!!

    • A view I have seen many times, possibly why I missed the sketch.

  21. Thanks for the eye candy images, Debra. 🙂 Interesting graffiti. I hope there is a happier story about it, than the gallows victim. 😕

    • I like the idea that it was Dante.

  22. I’ve never noticed the graffiti but I shall certainly look for it next time I’m down in Firenze!! Grazie!!

    • It is quite easy to spot when you know it is there.

  23. I was told two stories of the profile by an old Florentine: That someone bet Michelangelo that he couldn’t carve a portrait behind his back and this was the end result and the other was that there was a man that frequented the piazza that was very long winded and this was a carving Michelangelo did of him while listening to one of his boring orations. I like the Dante version, though. Maybe he was the bore? 😉

    • I like both explanations. Dante looks like a very serious fellow in all his portraits, perhaps he was a serious bore.

  24. liked the bit about walking behind the statue -whoa, what a good view. Marvellous insight your shared from that secret book.

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