2. All accounts that I have found concerning the purpose of the drawings suggest that
the list was illustrated because the servant who was to fetch the items was illiterate.

3.  The statue of David in Florence, the Pietà in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, and the
ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City are possibly the most famous.  Take your
pick.  I have seen all three.  There are many, many more.

Exploring a little further, it seems Michelangelo very frequently wrote or drew on the
blank part of already used paper.  Perhaps he was being economical with a costly
commodity, or perhaps he was just an early recycler.  In any event this list is on the
back of a letter that had reached him in Pietrasanta.  According to the biography by
John Addington Symonds  Michelangelo is known to have been there in March 1518 to
organise a new source of marble for the Pope, having recently relocated from Carrarra.
Both are located on the Tuscan seaboard and, having visited that locality, one of my
strong memories is of the many many trucks on the narrow roads, all carrying huge
hunks of white marble. Michelangelo would have had more challenging transport
arrangements. In fact, as the biography shows, he was not just a sculptor/painter, he
also had to be a quarrymaster and roadmaker. But back to the letter ...

The date is reported as 18 March 1518.  We don't see this on the image as presumably
it is on the other side, but what we can see is something of the address.  This was
written on the outside of the folded letter, that being the largely unused side that
Michelangelo used for his list.  Here is the address (slightly overdrawn by a jug of
wine), rotated and cropped from the image:

Each address line begins with a short word that I can't decipher/translate, but to me the
rest of the first line reads "Michelagniolo buon (or very similar) and the second reads A
Pietra Santa.  I believe that Michelangelo wrote his shopping list within about two
weeks after receiving this letter.  Why?  Because the food that he is ordering is for
Lent.  And in 1518 Easter Day occurred on April 4 and He would not have been eating only fish and vegetables after
that.  But what about wine?  Indications seem to be that at the time wine was safer to
drink than water, so it probably wasn't proscribed during Lent.

There are many translations of the shopping list to be had, but I like this one from
Gillian Riley's The Oxford Companion to Italian Food:

pani dua, two bread rolls
un bochal di vino, a jug of wine
una aringa, a herring
tortegli, tortelli
una insalata, a salad
quatro pani, four bread rolls
un bochal di tondo, a jug of full-bodied wine
un quartuccio di bruscho, a quarter of dry wine
un piatello di spinaci, a dish of spinach
quatro alice, four anchovies
tortelli, tortelli
sei pani, six bread rolls
dua minestre di finochio, two dishes of fennel
una aringa, a herring
un bochal di tondo, a jug of full-bodied wine

Riley continues:

"Each of these items is presented in an appropriately shaped pot: the salad in a wide
shallow dish with a neat, tiny plinth, the spinach piled in a smaller bowl, the four
anchovies draped elegantly over the curved mouldings of their basin, the stewed fennel
in round, rimmed bowls; only the herring swims in midair, while the mysterious tortelli
have no container to convey some sense of scale to their writhing contraposto."

And finally, did Michelangelo really draw simply because the person who was to shop
for him was illiterate?  I think it could have been more than that.  While he came from
Florence which, like Pietrasanto, is in Tuscany, the spoken language is unlikely to have
been the same in the two places. Today in Italy, it is still very easy to find areas where
people speak a dialect that is very different from standard Italian.  Michelangelo, being
an educated Florentine, would have not have spoken in a way familiar to the everyday
people of Pietrasanto and may not have been easily understood.  So the drawings could
have been a communication aid for the spoken word as much as for the written. In
fact, if he were doing his own shopping and the desired food was not on display to
point to, he may well have had to draw!

Until next time,

Megan Neilsen
Quiz #481 Results
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Answers to Quiz #481- June 21, 2015
1.  Whose list is this?  Where is it kept?
2. What was the purpose of the illustrations?
3.  Name one other creation by this person.
TinEye Alert
You can find this photo on,
but the quiz will be a lot more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
Comments from Our Readers
In the same way that we all must eat (need groceries), we all must go to the
bathroom, and we all do it in the same way. My mother would often remind me of
this as a child and it was usually when I was feeling particularly intimidated by
someone or by a group of people. This thought has always put things into
perspective for me.

What I do find interesting is that someone like Michelangelo still practiced
self-denial. Often with these larger-than-life characters the fame goes to their heads
and they become totally self-absorbed and irreverent.

I, like you, believe that the servant(s) was/were illiterate as opposed to speaking
different dialects, hence the pics. I think, like you, that if there were different
dialects involved that they would have been similar enough that the photos would
have been unnecessary as they would have been able to decipher the words on their

Neat quiz, didn't know such lists existed.
Cindy Costigan
Yes  Michelangelo had to buy groceries. I was in a Subway tonight and the girl was
from Mexico. I thought about  Michelangelo at that time.
Gus Marsh
If I think about all of the things that I know about that Michelangelo did, writing a
grocery list wouldn’t even make it into my thoughts.  He did have to eat and would
obviously have a say in what he ate, but writing his own grocery list is interesting.  
He must have had staff to whom he could dictate the list.

My penmanship is bad, illustrations could not hurt.  I would have to draw better
than Michelangelo.  How would I distinguish the difference between a jar of peanut
butter and a can of soup without getting really detailed?
Carol Farrant
I loved this one!  So amazing, I want a framed copy for my kitchen....  ;)

If you look at this 2 page PDF, the exact translation of the items is shown:
Beth Long
Regarding the list, I think, whether the servant was illiterate or not, Michelangelo
could not resist drawing a picture.
Margaret Paxton
Gosh, I love it when a wild first guess pans out.  It was clear that it was a shopping
list, but it was the overall look of that page that was the giveaway.  I googled
Michelangelos shopping list and up popped lots of images of the same page.

I think there is a very long list of other creations, but two that I have been thrilled to
see in person are the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta.
Carol Farrant
Very interesting, Fearless Leader! Do you save your grocery lists? The illustrations
are great!  
Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers
Michael Angelo used to keep his shopping list on his refrigerator.
Timmy Fitzpatrick
Wow, Megan really did some extra research.  It is kind of cool to know he was a
good little observant Catholic boy.  I agree with you about the wine; I don't think
there was a restriction on drinking it then.

I also agree with you about Megan's dialect theory.  If it was truly a dialect, the
written form would have been close enough to be understandable.  It's much more
likely that the servant was illiterate, which was the norm for the majority of the
population at that time.
Janice M. Sellers

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Maggie Gould                Jinny Collins
Tom Collins                Gus Marsh
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Arthur Hartwell                Tony Knapp
Ellen Welker                Tynan Peterson
Margaret Paxton                Beth Long
Felicia Rodrigues                Tom Collins
Carol Farrant                Betty Chambers
Timmy Fitzpatrick

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers!
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1.  It is Michelangelo's grocery list.  In Caste Buonorroti, Italy
2. His servant was illiterate and could not read the list.
3.  There are many:  The Pieta, The Sistine Chapel, David...

Michelangelo's Tomb

How Tony Reverse-Engineered the Puzzle
Here I go again. This time I didn't go to the quiz page. I just clicked
on the picture and saved to file. I opened the picture in my photo
program to view it and manipulate it. The text I'm typing in wordpad
and will copy and paste to the box on quiz page.

My first impressions with this image:

1. Because of the color the paper appears to be old. The light brown
lines indicate that the paper may have been folded.

2. The language appears to be Italian because of the numbers una,
dua, quatro.

3. The list with drawings almost looks like a food recipe.

4. The script at the bottom reminds me of how DaVinci used to write
on some of his works, in reverse mirror image and also looks

5. The lighter righting to the right also looks reversed although not
inverted and is probably written on the opposite side of the paper.

6. There is a number "14," on its side in the upper right
corner. A numbered page or numbered scrap of paper?

First I used Google translate to try and find out what some of the
words were. "sei pani"= six loaves; "dua minestre di Finochio" = two
soups Finochio; "una aringa" = a herring

So I searched google images for "davinci paper with recipe". The
image was in the pictures which came up but when I clicked on it, it
said the image was  Michelangelo's shopping list. So I went to the
page and found out it was a 16th century shopping list written by
Michelangelo. It had drawings of the items on the list because his
assistant was illiterate. They gave as some of the items on the list: a
herring and two fennel soups {Finochio is fennel]. So I was close.

Now I looked at the quiz page to see if I could answer the questions.

1. Michelangelo's grocery list. In the collection of the Florence
museum Casa Buonarroti [from].

2. To help his illiterate assistant find the items at the market.

3. Sistine Chapel ceiling. The Piet [saw this at the World's Fair in
New York in 1964]

Tony Knapp
Here we are again.  A very easy one this time.
Somewhere before I had seen this old document, a list
of foods in Italian and illustrated, from memory to do
with an artist. My first googled guess was Leonardo -
not right. I then simply did an image search for
<italian shopping list> and up it came on the first page.

1. This is the grocery list of Michelangelo Buonarroti
written on the back of a letter dated 18 March 1518.  
The list is archived at the museum Casa Buonarroti
which is housed in the artist's family home in
Florence.  In Spring 2013 is was seen on exhibition at
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and it was also
exhibited at the Seattle Art Fall 2009.
In Depth Analysis
by Quizmaster Megan Neilsen
Remarks from the Quizmaster General
It never occurred to me that Michelangelo would have spoken a different dialect- and
so would have needed to draw the items he needed to buy.  

But then, the question is whether the servant could read the dialect or not.  Quite often
dialects are actually a variation on a standard language form.  In this case, were the
dialects so different that they were mutually unreadable?  

There are hundreds(?) of dialects in Chinese, but they are all written the same.  This
surprised me when I was traveling to Taiwan. Mandarin was spoken on television - but
everything had subtitles.  At first I thought that this happened because there were a lot
of deaf people in Taiwan, but then I was told it was because so many listeners could
not understand mandarin - but everyone could read the transcript no matter what.

So were the Italian dialects that different?

Colleen Fitzpatrick PhD
Quizmaster General
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. Born to a family of
moderate means in the banking business, Michelangelo became an apprentice to a
painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family. What
followed was a remarkable career as an artist in the Italian Renaissance, recognized in
his own time for his artistic virtuosity. His works include the "David" and "Pieta"
statues and the ceiling paintings of Rome's Sistine Chapel, including the "Last
Judgment." Although he always considered himself a Florentine, Michelangelo lived
most of his life in Rome, where he died in 1564, at age 88.

Madonna of the Stairs
Michelangelo's Earlier Known Work
La Pieta
The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The Last Judgment
Michelangelo, who died in Rome in
1564, was buried beneath a
monument with allegorical figures
of Sculpture, Architecture and
Painting, designed by Giorgio
Vasari. Michelangelo's tomb served
as the model for others, such as
the tomb of Galileo, who died in
1642 (his monument was made by
Giovanni Battista Foggini). The
figure of architecture - the one on
the right - is by Giovanni dall'
Opera. The central figure
represents Painting and is by
Lorenzi ; while the third represents
Sculpture and was executed by