- Museum number
The Pope (Paul III) visiting Michelangelo's studio to see the statue of Moses, with figures kneeling before him.
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, over black chalk.
- Production date
Height: 266 millimetres
Width: 194 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 262 (with previous literature)
Four other versions of the composition are known: one, in red chalk with touches of brown ink, is at Holkham Hall (London, 1977, no.71; Popham and Lloyd, 1986, no. 200); another, in red chalk, is in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine (inv.no. 1811.22; Becker, 1985, p. 167, no. 77); a third, in pen and brown wash over red chalk, was formerly on the Paris art market (sale, Étude Tajan, 7 April 1995, lot 184, as attributed to Federico Zuccaro); and a fourth, in pen and brown ink and brown wash, belongs to Professor Alfred Moir, Santa Barbara. The Holkham drawing shows the design at its most fully realised, and the one at Bowdoin College its least developed. The purpose of the studies remains unknown but they were perhaps intended for an engraving or (less likely) a painting.
The subject is usually identified as Michelangelo (the figure kneeling on the right) showing Julius II della Rovere the completed statue of Moses (for this identification, see London, 1977, no. 71; and Popham and Lloyd, 1986, no. 200). Susan Wegner has pointed out (in Becker, 1985, under no. 77), however, that the incident may be that reported in Vasari's life of Michelangelo of a visit to the artist's studio of a later pope, Paul III Farnese (reg. 1534-50). Vasari records that, following the death of Clement VII in 1533, Michelangelo wished to return to work on Julius IPs tomb. It was, however, the equally strong desire of the newly elected Pope to employ him on commissions of his own. According to Vasari, the result was that "the Pope ... one day called at his [Michelangelo's] house with ten cardinals. He saw and admired all the statues for the tomb of Julius, especially the Moses which the Cardinal of Mantua declared sufficient by itself to honour the dead Pope" (ed. Milanesi, 1878-85, vii, p. 206), the implication being that the tomb required no further work on Michelangelo's part. The presence of the papal retinue in the composition would appear to support this identification.
Literature: London, 1977, under no. 71; Popham and Lloyd, 1986, p. 89, under no. 200.
- Not on display
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- Prints and Drawings
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