5 Famous Artists Who Tried to Destroy Their Own Work

#2. Virgil Writes One of the Greatest Works of Western Literature, Asks His Pals to Burn It


If you don't remember the Aeneid from school, let's just put it this way: It's considered one of the greatest written works in humanity's long history of writing things (it's been taught and studied for two millenniums for a reason). The Aeneid originated way back in 29 B.C., a result of the poet Virgil setting out to pen an epic ode to the founding of Rome and its general awesomeness, tentatively titled You Guys, We're, Like, the Greatest.

Now, Virgil was a meticulous craftsman. And by that we mean "slow as shit," in that it took him 11 freaking years to write the epic poem, and even then he thought it sucked balls (his exact words, probably). So in 19 B.C., Virgil set out on a lengthy vacation in Greece and Asia to attempt to edit and salvage the poem, but fell ill almost immediately. On his deathbed, he asked his friends to burn the insignificant little trifle he'd spent the last decade working on, the one that made the men cheer and the ladies swoon.

Fainting at a poetry reading was the Roman equivalent of throwing your panties on stage.

So what saved One of the Greatest Things Ever Written by Mankind from getting tossed into some burn barrel in an alley where bums would warm their hands over it? Politics.

Emperor Augustus had suggested the poem to Virgil in the first place, and parts of it implied that he was descended from Rome founder Aeneas, which would legitimize his reign. So when he learned of Virgil's "Please make sure no one sees the incredible masterpiece I created" request, Augustus issued an imperial decree of "Um, hell no," instead ordering Virgil's cohorts to finish editing the poem as best they could and publish it. And here we are, still talking about it, 20 centuries later.

When it inspires this kind of artwork, how can you not?

#1. Michelangelo Creates Thousands of Drawings, Feeds Them to a Bonfire


We're all familiar with Michelangelo, the Italian artist whose painting, sculpting and nunchuck skills are the stuff of legend. Once his chief rival, Raphael, had succumbed to a fatal case of excessive boning, Michelangelo was basically the King of Renaissanceville, completing two of his most famous sculptures (David and The Pieta) before he was 30 years old. He viewed painting as an inferior art form, yet still rocked the Sistine Chapel -- because if you're going to waste your time on something beneath you, there's no point in fucking around. Oh, and he made a lot of drawings. Like, tens of thousands of them.

Also, he was possibly a Cenobite.

Or about 600, judging by what we have left. Of course, you have to figure that not every single doodle he scribbled of St. Peter's Basilica in perfect 1/1,000 scale would survive four and a half centuries, but even in his own time, Michelangelo's talent was fully recognized -- his drawings were considered priceless gifts to be treasured and protected. So why are so few of them still around? Well, it might have something to do with Michelangelo tossing reams of them into bonfires throughout his life.

What? Why? If his drawings were so highly regarded that he could have turned them into favors or some serious coin, why just toss them into the inferno?

The most likely explanation involves a weird form of vanity and public perception. In Michelangelo's mind, true genius centered around the immediate, seemingly effortless creation of a work of art, whereas the actual sketching and design stages were elements to be ashamed of and kept hidden. You know the merits of hard work and proper planning and learning from your mistakes and all that jazz? Well fuck that, because real prodigies effortlessly crap out masterpieces at a whim. Michelangelo worked his ass off on almost everything he did, yet he'd rather you remember him as a lazy, gifted sumbitch who just strolled into the Sistine Chapel one day, looked up, grabbed a few paintbrushes and a stepladder and went to town.

"Man, I don't even remember painting that shit, I was so hammered."

For art that needed censoring, check out 8 Filthy Jokes Hidden in Ancient Works of Art. Or learn about 6 Classics Despised by the People Who Created Them.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Movies That Prove the Action Genre Won't Let a Dog Die.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see what Cody did with his paintings of men riding unicorns.

And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to get sexy, sexy jokes sent straight to your news feed. Are you on Google+? So are we!

Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!

Recommended For Your Pleasure

To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!