Michelangelo - Atlas Slave
Michelangelo – Atlas Slave

“Non finito” is an Italian term for “not finished”. It is mainly used in sculpture, but can also be applied to any other form of work.

Especially Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin are known for their non finito sculptures. They leave parts of the work completely or slightly unfinished while they work out others like they normally would. Thus they create great expressiveness.

And we ask us: “Why did he work out this part and emphasize it so clearly? Why was this important to him?”

A comparable method is used in photography or film, when details are taken in focus and other parts sinking in softness.

In contrast to completely finished sculptures (or other works), the artist allows us to experience a part of their creative process. We see Michelangelo dug into the stone with his tools. I am a big fan of artists with personal mark making and presence in their work. That makes the work more accessible, reduces the viewer’s distance and creates trust.

The artist also introduces a new dimension to his work: time. We do not get the “finished work” as a perfectly described moment, but a work in its different phases of creation. The work as a timeline of his own development.