An old man wearing a hat (Philosopher) by Michelangelo, a pen and brown ink drawing

Michelangelo, The Philosopher

Michelangelo, Philosopher, c1495-1500, pen and brown ink

Height: 33.100 cm
Width: 21.500 cm

PD 1895-9-15-498

This is perhaps the earliest drawing by Michelangelo in the tour (and the exhibition), executed in the second half of the 1490s. Two tones of ink - brown and a greyish colour - have been used, and blank paper provides the highlights in the figure's draperies. It is possible that Michelangelo was inspired by the intense contrasts of lighting in the painting of drapery in some of Ghirlandaio's panel paintings.

The extensive use of crosshatching - a technique used only sparingly by Ghirlandaio - gives this figure great sculptural solidity. The identity of the pensive figure is unknown, although the shell attached to his peaked hat indicates that he is a pilgrim. The object in his hands, perhaps a skull or casket, suggests that he might be one of the Magi adoring the newborn Christ.

After Michelangelo left Ghirlandaio's studio, he came into contact with the Medici family. He joined Lorenzo de'Medici's household in the late 1480s. However by the time this drawing was made the Medici had fallen from power and Michelangelo was living in Rome.