- Museum number
The Holy Women at the foot of the Cross; the central, full-length figure (the Virgin) supported by two flanking figures, with two further wailing figures behind, c.1542-50
- Production date
Height: 210 millimetres
Width: 140 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- W69 represents a group of lamenting women, almost certainly conceived as the Holy Women at the foot of the cross at Christ`s Crucifixion. The composition is freely drawn with long strokes of black chalk. The many repeated contours, thickened in the centre of the composition, greatly contribute to the sense of the grief-stricken women`s motion. The central figure is depicted in an attitude of imminent collapse; she is usually identified as the Virgin and is flanked by two equally woeful women. The direction of the Virgin`s gaze is mirrored by the figure immediately behind, whose raised arms suggest the image of the Crucifixion intended or contained to the r. on the original sheet from which this fragment was cut. This figure shows three alternative positions in the upper l. arm. A fifth figure is drawn at the far r., seen from behind and turned inwards. The drawing presents a predominantly high view point, suggestive of that from the cross itself. The study appears unfinished, the lower portions of the two figures to the far l. and r. being barely sketched in.
Thode (1913) and Hartt (1971) have linked W69 to Corpus 89 at Haarlem containing studies for a Deposition (in turn linked to W32), probably preparatory to a study for a relief sculpture dated to the 1520s. Although Wilde agrees with this connection, he judges W69 to be a later variant, observing that `the movement has become more continuous and the treatment of the subject more emotional`. He considers that the few surviving drawings datable to the 1540s appear to `vindicate` the traditional attribution of W69 to Michelangelo (although Frey had expressed doubts and Popp had rejected it). Wilde considers a comparison with W71 as particularly telling.
Dussler (1959) acknowledges the analogies between W69 and Corpus 89. He considers W69 to display the stylistic characteristics of Michelangelo`s late period, notably in the powerful postures of the figures and ascribes the figure of the Virgin to Michelangelo, but discerns weaknesses in the surrounding figures, notably in the r. leg of the r.-hand figure which he sees as unrelated to the body above. Ultimately Dussler nevertheless favours the attribution of all of W69 to Michelangelo, describing the treatment of the feet and drapery as being almost identical to the sheet in the Casa Buonarroti (Corpus 283) representing the `Sacrifice of Isaac` dated by him post the `Last Judgement` (i.e. post 1541). Joannides (2011) judges W69 to have been drawn as an addition to the much earlier drawn Deposition (Corpus 89).
This is the only drawing given to Michelangelo in Wilde`s catalogue not to be listed in de Tolnay`s Corpus, or his earlier five volumes on Michelangelo, Princeton, 1948-60.
Lit.: H. Thode, `Michelangelo: Kritische Untersuchungen über seine Werke`, Berlin, 1913, III, no. 326, p. 139; B. Berenson, `The Drawings of the Florentine Painters`, Chicago, 1938, II, no. 1514, p. 189; J. Wilde, `Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio`, London, 1953, no. 69, p. 108 (with further literature); L. Dussler, `Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo`, Berlin, 1959, no. 320, pp. 175-6 (ascribed to Michelangelo); P. Barocchi, `Michelangelo e la sua scuola: i disegni di Casa Buonarroti e degli Ufizzi`, Florence, 1962, I, under no.140 (= Corpus 283), p. 175; F. Hartt, `The Drawings of Michelangelo`, London, 1971, no. 451, p. 321; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', 1975, no. 152, p. 130; P. Joannides, ``Primitivism` in the Late Drawings of Michelangelo: The Master`s Construction of an Old-age Style`, in C. H. Smyth, `Michelangelo Drawings`, Washington, 1992, n. 4, p. 259; C. van Tuyll van Serooskerken, 'The Italian Drawings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries in the Teyler Museum', Haarlem, Ghent and Doornspijk, 2000, under no. 60 (= Corpus 89), p. 125; P. Joannides, `I disegni tardi di Michelangelo`, in A. Rovetta, exhib.cat., Castello Sforzesco, Milan, `L`ultimo Michelangelo. Disegni e rime attorno alla Pietà Rondannini`, Milan, 2011, n. 31, p.35.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1964, BM, Michelangelo, no. 49
1975, BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no. 152
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number