This is Michelangelo’s last drawing. It was made six or eight years before he died.
Soon he gave up drawing because his hand shook too much.
In the very last years of his life, he was occupied with architecture, not sculpture or painting. Vasari, his biographer, says: “For his architectural work, since his old age meant that he could no longer draw clear lines, Michelangelo made use of Tiberio Calcagni, who was a modest and well-mannered young man [the same who reconstructed the Pietà Michelangelo had broken to pieces].”
Calcagni helped him make his wooden model of St. Peter’s and the designs of the Porta Pía and the San Giovanni and Santa Maria degli Angeli churches.
About the time he made this drawing Michelangelo sent a letter to Vasari, along with various religious sonnets, “saying that he was at the end of his life, that he must take care where he directed his thoughts, that by reading what he wrote Vasari would see he was at his last hour and that the image of death was engraved on his every thought….’God wishes it, Vasari, that I should continue to live in misery for some years.’”
He was suffering not only from weakness but from harassment for his delay in the design of St. Peter’s. Some architects who wanted the job “were going about every day saying that he was in his second childhood,” says Vasari. “Angered by all this, Michelangelo would willingly have returned to Florence….. but he had grown so old and feeble that despite his resolve…his flesh betrayed his spirit.”