The Medici Chapels are two structures at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and built as extensions to Brunelleschi’s 15th-century church, with the purpose of celebrating the Medici family, patrons of the church and Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The Sagrestia Nuova (“New Sacristy”) was designed by Michelangelo. . , ,The Sagrestia Nuova was intended by Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici and his cousin Pope Leo X as a mausoleum or mortuary chapel for members of the Medici family. It balances Brunelleschi’s Sagrestia Vecchia, the “Old Sacristy” nestled between the left transept of San Lorenzo, with which it consciously competes, and shares its format of a cubical space surmounted by a dome, of gray pietra serena and whitewashed walls. . . .The Sagrestia Nuova was entered by a discreet entrance in a corner of San Lorenzo’s right transept, now closed. Though it was vaulted over by 1524, the ambitious projects of its sculpture and the intervention of events, such as the temporary exile of the Medici (1527), the death of Giulio, now Pope Clement VII and the permanent departure of Michelangelo for Rome in 1534, meant that Michelangelo never finished it. Though most of the statues had been carved by the time of Michelangelo’s departure, they had not been put in place, being left in disarray across the chapel, and later installed by Niccolò Tribolo in 1545.
A corridor leads down to the Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy), a cramped inner chamber that is the real draw of the Medici Chapels, a smorgasbord of Michelangelo: sculpture, architecture, and drawings. Sangallo probably started the chapel, but Michelangelo took over in 1520 to turn it into a final resting place for the Medici, the architecture drawn along cold, hard lines of dark gray pietra serena stone and white plaster and using tricks of perspective in the upper reaches to make the chapel seem airier.
There are basically three groupings of Michelangelo statues here. To the left is the tomb of Lorenzo II, Duke or Urbino (grandson to Lorenzo the Magnificent), looking pensive under his helmet, with his finger to his lips. To the right is the tomb of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours (third son of Lorenzo the Magnificent), with a serpentine neck and a nude-style breastplate modeled on ancient Roman statues. Much more famous (and compelling) than the figures of these undistinguished Medici are the allegorical figures just below them, reclining along the slow curves of the tomb architecture: Day (the male) and Night (female) beneath Giuliano, twisting their nude bodies across from Dawn and Dusk under Lorenzo.