A nude young man, to front, looking to right., beckoning; and a study of a r. leg Pen and two shades of brown ink (both iron gall); black chalk (leg study). 1503/4 Verso: Studies of children; the Virgin and Child; a woman's head Leadpoint, some gone over in pen and brown ink; the Virgin and Child in black chalk (?)
- Height: 374 millimetres
- Width: 228 millimetres
Inscription ContentInscribed: 'barba', 'Ero ig[n]udo or son vestito ogni mal me' in Michelangelo's hand and 'charissimo sa [..] chome abiano visto meno' in unknown hand
Verso inscribed: 'lessandro manecti' in Michelangelo's hand and 'chosse de bruges ch..' in unknown contemporary hand
The figure on the recto in pen and ink is generally considered to be a study for the 'Battle of Cascina' cartoon although it does not occur in the best known copy of this lost work, Bastiano da Sangallo's grisaille painting at Holkham Hall, Norfolk. The pose is a free adaptation of the antique sculpture known as the 'Apollo Belvedere', the classical poise of the marble replaced by an unstable sense of motion. During Michelangelo's first period in Rome, 1496-1501, the sculpture was in the gardens of S. Pietro in Vincoli, the seat of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, subsequently being installed in the new Cortile del Belvedere after Giuliano's election as Pope Julius II in 1503. The inscription 'barba' (beard) in Michelangelo's hand on the right perhaps suggests that he had in mind to make the figure more different from the smooth cheeked god of the sculpture. The pentimento in the figure's l. leg (drawn in long strokes in light brown ink), the outstretched l. arm and the flowing hair give an impression of movement (it was given the title 'Figura virile in movimento' in the 1999 Florence exhibition catalogue) appropriate to the subject in which the Florentine army is surprised whilst bathing on the banks of the Arno. W5-6 are also related to the 'Cascina' project.
The pen over leadpoint drawings of children on the verso, partly covering over a faint black chalk (?) design of the seated Virgin reaching down to her infant, are ideas for Christ and his cousin, John the Baptist, in the unfinished marble relief, the 'Taddei tondo', now in the Royal Academy, London. The central motif of the relief is Christ's fright at a goldfinch, a symbol of his future Passion, held by his cousin. Michelangelo's free exploration of ideas for the two figures is inspired by Leonardo's example.
The drawing may well have been one of the works that Michelangelo's pupil Antonio Mini took with him to the French court as Paul Joannides (1994) pointed out that two of the children on the verso are copied in a drawing (École des Beaux Arts, Paris) by Primaticcio for the Salle du bal at Fontainebleau. Carmen Bambach (1997) draws attention to Perrig's neglect (1991) of Michelangelo's autograph inscriptions in his rejection of this sheet.
Watermark: balance (abstracted) in circle (see, J. Roberts, 'A Dictionary of Michelangelo's Watermarks', Milan, 1988, p.17). The medium of the drawing has been confirmed by Satoko Tanimoto and Giovanni Verri from the Department of Scientific Research in a campaign of investigation of the Italian 15th century drawings linked to the forthcoming 2010 exhibition. The analytical methods employed have been non-destructive and non-contact ones: infrared and ultraviolet imaging, with XRF and Raman spectrometry.
Lit.: J. Wilde, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio', London, 1953, no. 4, pp. 9-10 (with previous literature); L. Dussler, 'Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo', Berlin, 1959, no. 169, pp. 107-8; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', 1975, no. 8, p. 19; C. de Tolnay, 'Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo', Novara, 1975, I, no. 48; N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Florentine Drawings of the sixteenth century', 1986, no. 11, p. 35; A. Perrig, 'Michelangelo's drawings: the science of attribution', New Haven and London, 1991, p. 27, fig. 80 (as Benvenuto Cellini); P. Joannides, 'A Propos d'une sanguine nouvellement attribuée a Miche Ange', "Revue du Louvre", 1994, 3, p. 23, fig. 22; C. Bambach, 'Review of A. Perrig, "Michelangelo's drawings"', "Master Drawings", XXXV, 1997, pp. 67-72; C. Echinger Maurach, in exhib. cat. (K.Weil-Garris Brandt and C. Acidini Luchinat eds), Florence, Palazzo Vecchio and Casa Buonarroti, 'Giovinezza di Michelangelo', 1999, no. 72, p. 406; P. Joannides, 'Inventaire général des dessins italiens, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins: Michel-Ange, élèves et copistes', Paris, 2003, under no. 9 (= de Tolnay 47), pp. 82-5; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: closer to the master', 2005, no. 13, pp. 88 and 90; C. Van Cleave, 'Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance', London, 2007, p. 120, illustrated p. 121; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 92, pp. 290-91 (cat. entry by C. Casoli).
The drawing on the recto was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part I, Published by the Trustees, in 1888 where it was number 9 and described there as 'Michelangelo Buonarroti, Undraped Figure of a Man Advancing the Right Leg, With the Left Arm and Hand Raised.' In the facsimile the marks on the right, below the inscription, were removed in the photographic process.
The drawing on the verso was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part I, Published by the Trustees, in 1888 where it was number X and described there as 'Michelangelo Buonarroti, Studies of a Male Child, Standing and Seated.'
Italian Roy XVIc
1964 BM, Michelangelo, no.4 1972 BM, The Art of Drawing, no.127 1975 Feb Apr, BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no.8 1986 BM, Florentine Drawings 16thc, no.11 1992 Oct Dec, Norwich, UEA, 'Florentine Drawings', (no cat.) 1999/00 Oct Jan, Florence, Casa Buonarroti/Palazzo Vecchio, 'Michelangelo'
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2006 Mar-Jun, BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2010 April-July, BM, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo`, no.92
30 July 2011
Reason for analysis
Italian Renaissance Drawings Technical Examination Proforma ‘Gesturing Man’ and ‘Children’ (Michelangelo) P&D 1887,0502.117
The proforma below contains results from a technical examination of Italian Renaissance drawings undertaken between 2008 and 2010 by the authors listed above. This document summarises the results for a single drawing; for an overall assessment of the results within the context of drawings of the period see Ambers, Higgitt and Saunders 2010. These proformas were produced as an on-going record of work in progress and are therefore written in note form and require some explanation.
Analysis reference number
Prints & Drawings
A nude young man, to front, looking to r., beckoning; and a study of a r. leg Pen and two shades of brown ink; black chalk (leg study). 1503/4 Verso: Eight studies of chidren; a virgin and child; a woman's head Pen and brown ink (seven children); black chalk (the other sketches)
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Object reference number: PDO8169
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