- Museum number
A scheme for the decoration of the vault of the Sistine Chapel; studies of arms and hands. 1508
Pen and brown ink over a sketch in lead point and stylus (vault study); black chalk (arms and hands)
Verso: Study of drapery for a seated figure; a seated figure
Brush and brown ink over a light greyish preparation (drapery study), the parallel strokes done with the point of the brush; black chalk overlaid with brown wash (the seated figure); stylus marks, interpreted by Wilde as representing a seated nude
- Production date
Height: 274 millimetres
Width: 386 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The main drawing on the recto - a vaulted ceiling interrupted by spandrels - is the first surviving design for the decoration of the Sistine chapel in the Vatican, Rome, commissioned from Michelangelo by Julius II in the Spring of 1508. Wilde points out that the artist has taken into account the curve of the vault in his design, Michelangelo ingenuously fusing the niche with the lozenge-shaped geometric decoration. A subsequent scheme for the Sistine vault, also with black chalk studies of arms and hands, is at Detroit (de Tolnay 120), in turn followed by the summary sketch on W10 verso. Although the arm studies are often linked to the figure of Adam, Wilde favours the idea that they were drawn for a prophet or sibyl subsequently not executed. The seated figure on the verso is a variant of the sketched figure in the main drawing on the recto. For a detailed analysis of the development of Michelangelo's early projects for the Sistine ceiling - as seen in this, the Detroit and the W10 studies - see Weil-Garris Brandt's article listed below. The circular object held in the palm of the hand was interpreted as the end of a handle of a staff to help the model hold the pose in the 2005 exhibition.
Watermark: Eagle in circle (see, J. Roberts, `A Dictionary of Michelangelo's Watermarks', Milan, 1988, p. 20)
Lit.: J. Wilde, `Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio', London, 1959, no. 7, pp. 17-20; (with previous literature); L. Dussler, `Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo', Berlin, 1959, no. 163 (recto), p. 104, no. 318 (verso), p. 175 (attributed to Michelangelo); P. Barocchi, in exhib. cat., Florence, Casa Buonarroti and Biblioteca Laurenziana, 'Michelangelo: mostra di disegni, manoscritti e documenti', 1964, under no. 16, p. 11; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', 1975, no. 14; C. de Tolnay, `Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo', Novara, 1975, I, no. 119; J.A.Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo from the BM', 1979, no. 4, pp. 28-33; G.C. Argan and B. Contardi, `Michelangelo architetto', Milan, 1990, pp. 60-3, fig. 59; M. Hirst, in exhib. cat. (F. Mancinelli ed), Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 'Michelangelo e la Sistina; : la tecnica, il restauro, il mito', 1990, no. 1, pp. 36-7; F. Mancinelli, `La progettazione della volta della Cappella Sistina di Michelangelo', in C. Hugh Smyth (ed.), `Studies in the History of Art. 33. Michelangelo Drawings', Washington, 1992, pp. 43-55; K. Weil-Garris Brandt, `Michelangelo's Early Projects for the Sistine Ceiling: Their Practical and Artistic Consequences', in C. Hugh Smyth (ed.), `Studies in the History of Art. 33. Michelangelo Drawings', Washington, 1992, pp. 57-87; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: closer to the master', 2005, no. 17, pp. 107-8; C.C. Bambach, in exhib. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, ‘Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer’, 2017, no. 46 (recto), p. 294.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1964 BM, Michelangelo, no. 8
1975 Feb-Apr, BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no. 14
1979 Apr-Jul, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', no. 4
1990 Mar-Jul, Rome, Vatican Museum, 'Michelangelo e la Sistina', no. 1
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2006 Mar-Jun, BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2017 15 Mar-25 Jun, London, The National Gallery, Sebastiano-Michelangelo (verso)
2017-18 Nov-Feb, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Michelangelo Divine Draftsman and Designer' (recto/verso)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number