Florentine Graffiti: the tale of the “Annoyer” by Michelangelo

Let’s discover the curious tales about a graffiti scratched on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio: did you think it was an act of vandalism? Not at all…this scrawl of a man’s face was drawn by Michelangelo Buonarroti, no less!


Strolling through the very heart of Florence, passing by the world famous Piazza della Signoria, a magnificent sample of Renaissance perfection and the power of Medici’s dynasty, you can see a little piece of graffiti if you lookat the right corner of the main entrance of Palazzo Vecchio, behind the statue of Hercules and Caco by Baccio Bandinelli.

Carved on a stone near the base of the palace, there is a simple but evocative outline of the head of a man, the so-called “l’Importuno di Michelangelo” (the Annoyer by Michelangelo).

Despite the claims that it was created by the famous genius Michelangelo, actually there is no tangible proof, but only very intriguing hear-say like this:

This strange graffiti is dated between 1499 and 1504, when Michelangelo came back to Florence to work on his most famous masterpiece: the Statue of David.

The great sculptor used to cross the Piazza della Signoria every day, always in hurry to reach his work-place and one version states that he was regularly stopped and caught in useless conversation by a chatty and boring individual (the Annoyer, l’Importuno) so that one day, unable once again to get rid of him, he took the chance to portray him, and, leaning against the wall with his hands behind his back, he engraved with a chisel his face in the stone, simply to pass the time.

Another version tells that Michelangelo witnessed an execution in the square and he got so moved by the emotional expression of the man condemned to gallows, that he could not help carving it right away into the brick of the wall. However, another version of this story claims instead that Michelangelo,

recognizing the man on death row as his own debtor, decided to chisel his face on the wall in order to immortalise his state of infamy.

Having a look at some books about curious Florentine tales, I could also read that Michelangelo maybe just meant to portray himself, judging the shape of the broken nose of the head’s profile, or that he accepted a challenge to deliberately scar the stone of the palace, but afterwards, wishing to “repair” his capricious act of vandalism, he disguised it carving the head of man.

Finally, we will never know which one of these stories is the true one: it could have been really an act of civil disobedience by the greatest artist of all, or just a simple scrawl of an unknown vandal. In any case, for certain, it has conquered forever the curiosity and a place in the heart of Florentine people and tourists alike.



Silvia Benucci, Front Desk Agent Room Mate Isabella


Pictures by Silvia Benucci


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