- Museum number
Half-length figure of a woman seated slightly to left., looking to front
Pen and brown ink, over black and red chalk. c. 1525
Verso: half-length figure of a woman standing to left., looking down; a nose and lock of hair?; trial strokes of the pen
- Production date
Height: 320 millimetres
Width: 256 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This large drawing of a seated woman in an elaborate costume was first sketched in red chalk with some black chalk in the lower part. The initial sketch was then gone over in long strokes of the pen which depart in some places from the sketch beneath, for example, in the woman's l. shoulder and upper arm. Michelangelo then probably took up the chalk a second time for the modelling in the face. The composition stops somewhat abruptly at the bottom (cf. the incomplete l. hand). Drawn first on the sheet, in the same ink as the main study, is a sketch of a nude man, bending forward in profile to the r. It would seem unconnected with the main study, the thick lines delineating part of the woman's complex dress appearing to cancel the image. Tolnay interprets this figure as being part of the composition and the marks above it to not be the woman's r. hand but a child and globe. It would thus represent St Christopher carrying the Christ Child as a kind of mental projection experienced by the Prophetic Madonna. J.A. Gere and N. Turner (1979) seem to favour de Tolnay's interpretation, writing, `It is true that the head and right arm of the 'Child' could equally well be interpreted as the first two fingers of the woman's hand, which seems to be holding something between forefinger and thumb; but it is more difficult to explain the left leg as part of the hand, especially since it seems to have been drawn in relation to the `St Christopher''. The question is further complicated by the uncrossed hatching beside and beneath the hand. Dussler (1959) notes a compositional similarity between this bending figure and one in the background of the fresco of the Flood in the vault of the Sistine Chapel and follows Wilde in not seeing it as connected with the principal figure.
Wallace (1995) has recently made the ingenious proposal that the first-drawn sketch in red chalk is by Antonio Mini, then gone over by Michelangelo. For Wallace this is a conspicuous example of Michelangelo taking inspiration from his assistants' mediocre efforts. Wallace's theory also provides an answer for the riddle of the stooping figure: it would represent a wry comment by the artist on his own procedure, being a drawn figure shown in the act of drawing over Mini's red chalk sketch.
Although unfinished, Wilde compares this recto drawing to the 'teste divine' which Vasari records Michelangelo as producing for his friends cf. W42. Turner (1986) observes, 'the feeling of psychological isolation about both figures, and their elaborately fanciful costume, makes it not unlikely that they were preliminary studies for a presentation drawing'. De Tolnay lists this sheet under the heading `teste divine', writing, 'per il suo carattere visionario, abbiamo creduto giustificato accostarlo ai disegni per il Cavalieri'. The dating to c. 1525 is on purely stylistic grounds but according to Wilde 'none the less convincing' and coincides with the period in which Vasari records Michelangelo as producing the 'teste divine'.
Drawn in black chalk on the verso - with the sheet inverted - is the half-length sketch of a standing young woman, equally in costume. Wilde notes that the chalk was gritty and occasionally left no mark on the paper and that the sketch appears unfinished. For Wilde the quality of resigned sorrow expressed by the figure is only to be found in an authentic drawing by Michelangelo. Most commentators consider the verso sketch to have been drawn contemporaneously with the recto. Dussler (1959) notes the close relation of this sketch to that in black chalk on the verso of a sheet in the Uffizi (de Tolnay 308), equally of a woman in three-quarter profile to the l. in a very similar costume.
Lit.: J. Wilde, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio', London, 1953, no. 41, pp. 77-8 (with previous literature); L. Dussler, 'Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo', Berlin, 1959, no. 307, pp. 170-1 (ascribed to Michelangelo) and under no. 492, p. 231; F. Hartt, 'The Drawings of Michelangelo', London, 1971, nos. 366-7; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo, 1975, no. 113, p. 94; C de Tolnay, `Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo', Novara, 1976, II, no. 320; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo from the BM', 1979, no. 15, p. 72; N. Turner, in exhib. cat. London, BM, 'Florentine Drawings of the sixteenth century', 1986, no. 82, p. 118; W. E. Wallace, `Instruction and Originality in Michelangelo`s Drawings`, in `The Craft of Art. Originality and Industry in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque Workshop`, ed. A. Ladis and C. Wood, Athens, Georgia, 1995, pp. 129-1, fig. 9 (as Michelangelo over Antonio Mini); H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: closer to the master', 2005, no. 64, pp. 201-2 (recto) and 202 (verso)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1964 BM, Michelangelo, no. 32
1972 BM, The Art of Drawing, no. 129
1975 BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no. 113
1977 May-Jun, Hermitage, Italian Renaissance, no. 30
1977 Jul-Aug, Pushkin, Moscow, Italian Renaissance, no. 30
1979 Apr-Jul, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Michelangelo Drawings from the BM, no. 14
1980, Adelaide and Melbourne, no. 30
1984 BM, Master Drawings and Watercolours in BM, no. 16
1986 BM, Florentine Drawings 16thC, no. 82
1992 Oct-Dec, Norwich, UEA, Florentine Drawings (no cat.)
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2006 Mar-Jun, BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2014 May-Sep, Rome, Capitoline Museums, 'Michelangelo'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number