- Museum number
Christ driving the money-changers from the temple. After 1550
Verso: Sketches for the same composition
- Production date
Height: 146 millimetres
Width: 274 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- W76 is the first sheet in a group of three in the BM (W76-8) all containing sketches in black chalk for a composition of `Christ driving the money-changers from the temple` (Matthew xxi. 12-13; John ii. 14-16), conceived after the completion of the Paolina frescoes in 1550 and thus Michelangelo`s last extensive figure composition (Wilde, 1978). All three sheets share the same provenance, being acquired from the Casa Buonarroti by Wicar. They are all related to the painting attributed to his follower Marcello Venusti in the National Gallery, London (1194; no. 100 in the 2005 exhibition).
The l.-hand study on the recto is the first in a sequence across the rectos of W76-8 showing the evolution of the artist`s definitive solution: Christ is centrally placed and, in a pose recalling the `Last Judgement`, raises a whip in his r. hand, causing the surrounding figures to scatter in a radiating pattern. The symmetry of the composition is emphasized by the vertical line drawn with a straight edge through the figure of Christ - seemingly by Michelangelo himself. A further vertical line, very faint and drawn freehand to the l. of Christ, is perhaps an indication of the background architecture. The figures are block-like, their contours many times re-drawn in mainly short strokes of the chalk. The figure of Christ has been shifted significantly to the l. and its outer r. contour, although considerably thickened, does not impinge on the flanking figure to the left. The upturned table to the r. falls into the lap of the seated figure (and towards the viewer), whose outer l. contour describes an elongated S shape in combination with the standing figure above.
Drawn in immediate succession is the study to the r. in which Christ is depicted in slightly greater contrapposto and more stooped. Michelangelo has experimented with a table less tilted and increased in volume, and given greater prominence to the figure seen frontally immediately to Christ`s left. The sitting figure seen from the back has been left off, the contours unstrengthened. Equal to the l.-hand study, a vertical compositional line, drawn free-hand, falls through Christ`s head. The bass-relief nature of both recto compositions is heightened by the shadows cast by the figures, drawn in thick, uncrossed lines of the chalk. Drawn firstly and in sequence with the recto studies is a study for the figure of Christ on a fragment once part of the same sheet to the l., now the r.-most portion of W78r (see below).
The recto studies were preceded by those on the verso. First drawn to the lower l. (with the sheet seen in a lengthways orientation as mounted), intersecting with the composition drawn over it, is an architectural profile pertaining to a moment before Michelangelo took up the sheet to compose the studies for the `Expulsion`. The sketch to the top r. is completed by the fragment in the top l. corner of 78v, demonstrating the unity (confirmed by the matching of the chain lines) of these sheets before they were cut by Michelangelo himself (see W78): although the trimming of the two fragments has caused the loss of the figure of Christ, the upturned table indicates that it belongs to the first conception of the subject, with Christ orientated to the left. Beneath this is a faint, rapidly drawn study for the figure of Christ, turned to the right.
With the sheet turned ninety degrees is a more complete study for the whole composition, cut on the far left. Initially, the composition was adumbrated in relatively thick yet light strokes of the chalk, the main contours then being drawn over in thinner lines applied with greater pressure. The figure of Christ is orientated to the l., and tips up the table with his l. hand as on the recto, his figure displaying several penitmenti in the l. leg and head. It would appear to have preceded the sketch above and at right angles to it, since the form of the figures is less developed. The composition is made of greater interest by the indication of the surrounding architecture, integral to the meaning of the subject. It consists of two arcades springing from a central pillar which meets Christ`s body. The arcades appear of differing height - they are roughly equal however if the lowest drawn arch in the l. arcade is considered to suggest recession within the arcade. The simple, massive architecture indicated here and in W77r summons to mind the monumental architectural projects with which Michelangelo was involved in the latter portion of his career, principally St Peter`s and the adaptation of the Baths of Diocletian into the church of S. Maria degli Angeli.
Drawn over the upper portion of the latter sketch - rather than previous to it - is a study for Christ, his r. arm raised but turned to the r. as in the final solution. To the l. is a very faint study of similar pose, rapidly left off. If drawn immediately after the sketch below, these two sketches would represent the moment Michelangelo conceived of the definitive composition, orientating Christ and the immediate effects of his anger to the right. These two figures were in all likelihood immediately followed by two showing Christ in violent movement contained on a fragment in the Ashmolean (Corpus 374 / Haarlem and London 2005/6, no. 96) which undoubtedly derives from the same sheet as W76-8 - since the chain lines of the two fragments match horizontally it was probably to the r. of W76v.
Michelangelo`s predilection for the anatomical display of the back, lost in the new orientation of Christ frontally to the r., was transferred to the sitting figure to whom Christ turns, seen on the recto. The Ashmolean fragment (de Tolnay 374; no. 96 in the 2005 exhibition) is pasted onto a sheet containing at least six compact, triangular studies in black chalk for a composition representing either Samson or David overcoming a Philistine or Goliath respectively, of similar conception, although a little more stooped, to that of Christ in W76-8.
W60r, a study for the `Last Judgement` dated 1534 offers parallels with W76-8 drawn almost twenty years later. It equally shows a complex and interrelated mass of figures in movement drawn from Michelangelo`s fertile visual memory. In particular, the fleeing figure seen from behind to the far r. of the r.-hand composition on W76r recalls a figure in the group above the saints displaying their instruments of martyrdom (labelled C1 by Wilde). W76-8 show the development of Michelangelo`s late aesthetic in which figures are delineated in blockish forms as if to be hewn from stone - whereas in W60 the figures, although drawn on a similar scale to W76, are more rounded and subtly modelled.
Lit.: L. Goldscheider, `Michelangelo Drawings`, London, 1951, p. 53; J. Wilde, `Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio`, London, 1953, no. 76, pp. 117-18; L. Dussler, `Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo`, Berlin, 1959, no. 166, pp. 105-6; C. de Tolnay, `Michelangelo V`, Princeton, 1960, pp. 77-8, and, no. 230 (v), no. 231 (r), p. 211; F. Hartt, `The Drawings of Michelangelo`, London, 1971, no. 422 (v), no. 446 (r); J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', 1975, no. 168; C. Gould, `National Gallery Catalogues: the Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools`, London, under no. 1194, pp. 154-5; C. de Tolnay, `Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo`, Novara, 1978, III, no. 385; J. Wilde, `Michelangelo: Six Lectures`, Oxford, 1978, p. 181; J.A.Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo from the BM', 1979, under no. 23 (= W 78), p. 103; A. Perrig, 'Michelangelo's drawings: the science of attribution', New Haven and London, 1991, pp. 103, 105-8, figs. 128-9 (as Daniele da Volterra); H. Chapman, exh. cat., BM, London, `Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master`, 2005, no. 97, pp. 266-8.
This drawing (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 XIII(b) and described there as 'Michelangelo Buonarroti, Christ Driving Out the Money-Changers from the Temple.'
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1964 BM, Michelangelo, no. 47
1975 BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no. 8
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
2006 Mar-Jun, BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number