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Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni, called Michelangelo (1475-1564)

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Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni, called Michelangelo (1475-1564)\n\nThe Meeting of the Infant Saint John the Baptist with the Holy Family attended by Angels: The Rest on the Flight into Egypt (recto); Putti in amorous Play and the Head of a Bird (verso)\n\nwith inscription 'Tempo verra ancor' (verso);black and red chalk, pen and brown ink, over stylus indications (recto), pen and brown ink (verso) watermark crossed arrows (cf. Briquet 6276, Siena 1447-9), a small tapering addition at lower edge (maximum height 5mm.), two small made up areas upper edge\n279 x 391mm.


All references are to C. de Tolnay, Corpus dei Disegni di Michelangelo, Novara, 1975-80, I-IV

Michelangelo began the drawing with stylus underdrawing, as is most evident in the figures of the Madonna and the Christ Child. In some areas such as the left forearm of the Madonna and the head of the Infant Baptist the stylus underdrawing differs quite considerably from the chalk outlines, while in others such as the back of the head of the Virgin and the drapery of Saint Joseph the lines correspond closely. After roughly indicating the figures and the donkey with the stylus, Michelangelo used a soft grey-black chalk to draw the Holy Family, the Baptist, the angels and the donkey. Michelangelo tested out the texture the black chalk on the area below the feet of Saint Joseph and the red chalk in the upper right corner. The central group was drawn first, and followed by the two angels, Saint Joseph and the donkey. Michelangelo then used red chalk to clarify some areas, most notably the figure of the Baptist. Only the central three figures have additions in red chalk, and except for the Baptist and to a lesser extent the torso of the Christ Child, this was used to change outlines rather than to model form. After the red chalk, the artist used pen and brown ink, in part to clarify areas such as the drapery folds of the Madonna's mantle and the pose of the Infant Christ. More unusually, for it goes against normal Renaissance practice, Michelangelo drew extensive pentimenti in pen, such as the change to a frontal position of the Madonna's head and the suggestion of a trailing sleeve which would have obscured the Baptist. Pen was normally used to draw over the chalk underdrawing, in order to establish the final form of the design, rather than for revisions, as in the case of the present drawing. Evidently dissatisfied with his change to the Madonna's head, Michelangelo reinforced in ink the original pose looking down towards the Infant Baptist. The final touches are drawn with oiled black chalk, visible by virtue of the thicker and shinier line. This has been used to give an added accent; for example on the chin of the Madonna to outline the contour of her jaw and in areas such as the left hip of the Christ Child, where the modelling is strengthened to make it stand out from the surrounding dark area of black chalk. Few drawings by Michelangelo are so complex in technique; only The Sacrifice of Isaac (Corpus II, no. 283 recto) and the Madonna and Child (Corpus II, no. 239 recto) of the mid 1520s, both in the Casa Buonarroti, are comparable with the present sheet in their combination of black and red chalk with touches of brown ink.

This drawing has previously been known only from a photograph in the Michelangelo file of Johannes Wilde, to whom the original was shown by James Byam Shaw in the 1950s. It was published for the first time by Professor Michael Hirst in The Burlington Magazine in 1983. Hirst suggested a dating of 'scarcely earlier than c.1532' (op. cit., p. 556), comparing the subject with the Louvre Holy Family (Corpus II, no. 246 verso) of about 1525-30, in which Saint Joseph looks on, resting his hand on a saddle while the Infant Baptist kneels before the Madonna and Child. Stylistically the sfumato black chalk and the physical type of the Madonna are paralleled in drawings such as the Windsor Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist (Corpus II, no. 247 recto) and the British Museum Holy Family (Corpus II, no. 248 recto), both dated by de Tolnay to circa 1530 and by Wilde to about 1532 and to the mid 1530s respectively. The British Museum drawing, which combines dense hatching to model the drapery of the Madonna with broader shading in the background, is particularly close in the use of chalk to the present study. In scale, although not in finish, this drawing recalls the presentation drawings which Michelangelo gave to his close friends. Indeed, as Hirst pointed out, the pose of the Baptist in this drawing is almost identical to that of the putto on the left of the Windsor Bacchanal of Children (Corpus II, no. 338 recto), drawn for Tommaso de' Cavalieri in the autumn of 1533.

The purpose of the present drawing is unknown. The subject of the Madonna and Child, and related themes such as that of the present study-the Rest on the Flight- was one that Michelangelo returned to repeatedly throughout his life. His early sculptures of the subject such as the Madonna of the Stairs and the Pitti and Taddei tondi reveal his study of Florentine Quattrocento art, particularly of Donatello. In pen and ink studies of the Madonna Lactans of around 1504-5 in the Albertina and the Louvre (Corpus I, nos. 22 verso and 23 verso) the motif of the Child twisting around toward His mother anticipates the present study. Another drawing of this period in the Louvre (Corpus I, no. 21 verso) includes a study of a nude in a pose almost identical to that of the Christ Child in this sheet. The sculpture of the Madonna and Child in the Medici Chapel, Florence is the final expression of the Madonna Lactans theme first studied in drawings of the early 1500s. The Medici Chapel sculptures were planned in the early 1520s but the Madonna and Child was left unfinished when Michelangelo left Florence for the last time in 1534. The present study, although not in any way directly related to the Medici Chapel group, develops out of Michelangelo's meditation during the protracted preparatory process on the subject of the Madonna and Child. This is reflected in the number of drawings on this theme from this period, notably Corpus II, nos. 240-8. The present drawing is unique in the pictorial vision of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, complete with the donkey grazing and Saint Joseph leaning back against a saddle which, as Hirst noted, look 'as if Michelangelo had set out to draw a Palma Vecchio', op. cit., p. 556. It is perhaps not coincidental that Michelangelo had relatively recently returned from visiting Venice and Ferrara in the winter of 1529. Few Michelangelo drawings of the subject, numerous as they are, can match the richness of invention and the extraordinary range of technique of this masterful study.

The verso was, on the basis of the photograph in Wilde's file, accepted by Professor Hirst and published in 1984. He now feels after first hand study of the drawing, that the verso may not be by Michelangelo, as he does not accept the inscription as autograph. He suggests that the drawing may be by the Florentine sculptor Raffaello da Montelupo (?1505-1566/7), whose identity as a draughtsman was first discussed by Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, Chicago and London, 1970 edition, I, pp. 256-63, III, figs. 814-32. Paul Joannides, however, accepts the verso and is inclined to believe the inscription is also autograph. He compares the drawing, both in the handling of the pen and the outline, to amongst others Louvre (Corpus I, no. 34 recto). The verso, if it is by Michelangelo, would date from around the same period as the recto, as the subject is so reminiscent of the Windsor Bacchanal of Children of 1533.

The discovery that the present drawing was part of Sir Thomas Lawrence's matchless collection of Michelangelo studies establishes that it came from the group of sheets bought by the painter Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Wicar, Napoleon's agent in charge of the official looting of paintings in Italy, from Filippo Buonarroti (1761-1839). The drawings came from the group given by Michelangelo to his nephew Leonardo, the remains of which are in the Casa Buonarroti, Florence. Wicar sold the Michelangelo drawings to Samuel Woodburn in Rome in 1823, along with a fine group of Raphaels. He in turn sold them to Thomas Dimsdale for (3,000, but owing to the death of that collector Lawrence was able to acquire them. Following Lawrence's own death in 1830 and the sad failure to save the collection intact, the hundred finest Michelangelo drawings were exhibited at the tenth, and final, exhibition of the Lawrence Gallery in 1836. The exhibition was a success with both public and press, although the reviews were not uncritical-the present study was one of a few singled out in an article in The Athenaeum of July 16 1836: 'No. 11, 'The Repose'; greatness of idea and style, approaching to grotesque, in the Virgin and Children; Joseph is likewise the magnifico of contemplation, in rather too resolute a posture of repose'. The British Museum copy of the catalogue is priced and it is interesting to be able to compare the relative prices set by Woodburn, although he still cherished the idea that the Michelangelo and Raphael drawings would be preserved for the nation. The price of 250 guineas for the drawing reveals how much Woodburn admired it, as from the selection of 100 studies only five match the price and nine exceed it by a small margin. The other drawings valued at 250 guineas were the Marchesa di Pescara, Head of a bearded Man, and the Adam all in the British Museum (Corpus II, no. 316 recto; II, no. 220 recto; I, no. 134, recto), the Ashmolean Three Soldiers disputing (Corpus I, no. 9 recto) and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Pietà (Corpus III, no. 426, recto). Woodburn only broke up the series in 1838, when he sold 111 drawings from the ninth and tenth exhibitions to King Willem II of Holland. The present drawing may have been sold at this time, when Woodburn finally abandoned his aim of selling the Raphael and Michelangelo series en bloc. A further group from the Michelangelo and Raphael series was bought in 1845 by the University of Oxford, and are now in the Ashmolean Museum. The present drawing does not appear in Woodburn's posthumous sale of drawings from Lawrence's collection at Christie's in June 1860. The Christie's sale included a number of drawings from the 1836 exhibition, including some bought back by Woodburn at King William of Holland's sale in 1850. The quality and number of Michelangelo drawings in English museums, remarkably some two fifths of his oeuvre, is largely due to Lawrence since all of the Ashmolean sheets and 48 of those from the British Museum came from his collection


Michelangelo di Ludovico Buonarroti Simoni, called Michelangelo (1475-1564)


With inscription 'Tempo verra ancor' (verso);black and red chalk, pen and brown ink, over stylus indications (recto), pen and brown ink (verso) watermark crossed arrows (cf. Briquet 6276, Siena 1447-9), a small tapering addition at lower edge (maximum height 5mm.), two small made up areas upper edge






London, Messrs. Woodburn Gallery, The Lawrence Gallery, Tenth Exhibition, A Catalogue of one hundred original drawings by Michael Angelo, collected by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1836, no. 11, 'The Repose- a noble composition of the Virgin, Infant Christ, St. John, and other figures. This superb study has some analogy with the splendid basso rilievo by Michel Angelo, which was left to the Royal Academy by the late Sir George Beaumont. It is executed in black and red chalk, and touched with the pen; it has several pentimentos, and on the reverse are many fine studies of sporting boys, admirably drawn with the pen. Superb. From the Collection of M. Buonarotti and the Chevalier Vicar'. The British Museum copy of the catalogue is annotated with the price of 250 guineas


with inscription 'Tempo verra ancor' (verso);black and red chalk, pen and brown ink, over stylus indications (recto), pen and brown ink (verso) watermark crossed arrows (cf. Briquet 6276, Siena 1447-9), a small tapering addition at lower edge (maximum height 5mm.), two small made up areas upper edge 279 x 391mm.


M. Hirst, review of Charles de Tolnay's Corpus dei Disegni di Michelangelo, The Burlington Magazine, 1983, CXXV, p. 556, fig. 35

M. Hirst, A further addendum to the Michelangelo Corpus, The Burlington Magazine, 1984, CXXVI, p. 91, fig. 31


The artist's nephew Leonardo Buonarroti, and by descent to Filippo Buonarroti (1761-1839) Jean-Baptist-Joseph Wicar

Sir Thomas Lawrence (L. 2445)

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.