Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Lazarus, nude, seated on a sarcophagus, supported by two figures; studies of a left foot and, bottom r, a summary sketch of a right shoulder seen from above. 1516 Red chalk

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1516
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 250 millimetres
    • Width: 118 millimetres (sheet made up)
  • Curator's comments

    The drawings on this sheet, dated by Wilde to 1516, are studies for 'The Raising of Lazarus', a large altarpiece commissioned from Sebastiano del Piombo by Cardinal Giulio de' Medici for the Cathedral of Narbonne. The painting was executed in 1517-19, according to Vasari, 'sotto ordine e disegno in alcune parti di Michelangelo' and is now in the National Gallery, London. W17 is a subsequent study, also in red chalk, perhaps cut from the same sheet, depicting Lazarus wrapped in a shroud as in the completed altarpiece. A third sheet related to this commission at Bayonne (682; Bean, 1960, no. 65; de Tolnay 75), equally in red chalk, depicts three nude figures: two studies of Lazarus drawn immediately prior to W16 and a standing figure not adopted by Sebastiano. Like W15, W16-17 and the Bayonne sheet had generally been given to Sebastiano, Wilde's arguments mark a sea change in Michelangelo scholarship. Wilde considers the four ankle studies to have been drawn to explain the jointing of the bones for the l. ankle of Lazarus (encircled by a line in red chalk). Dussler, in contrast, judges these ankle studies to be for the figure of Christ, for which studies were presumably drawn although none are known. The subtle modelling of Lazarus' torso is accentuated by the thickening of its outlines. As with the more quickly drawn crouching figure to the r., the predominant source of light is depicted as falling from the top left. The figure standing above Lazarus of curiously large proportions in relation to the latter is only summarily drawn. There are many pentimenti, especially in the kneeling figure. The drawing in black chalk in the bottom r. was regarded as unintelligible by Wilde owing to its having been cut. It has subsequently been identified as a r. shoulder, N. Turner suggesting it to be an alternative for the r. shoulder of the figure leaning over Lazarus (see W16 in the department's interleaved copy of Wilde's catalogue). Dussler points out the similarity of the pose of Lazarus in reverse to that of Adam in the Sistine ceiling. Perceived weaknesses in the drawing of Lazarus where it departs from the Adam model cause Dussler to ascribe this drawing to Sebastiano (a return to Berenson's position), who would have closely studied his master's recently completed decoration of the Sistine ceiling. For Dussler, Sebastiano's authorship is further confirmed by the ankle sketches, unlikely to have been drawn by Michelangelo, his having recently consolidated his Formkenntnis' ('mastery of form') in the Sistine Chapel. Comparison with certain drawings by Sebastiano for the altarpiece, such as one in Frankfurt, show that he cannot have been responsible for the BM and Bayonne studies. (Quite apart from the fact that if the latter drawings are given to Sebastiano it makes a nonsense of him needing Michelangelo to supply him with figure drawings, an arrangement that is amply documented in their correspondence). Lit.: J. Wilde, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Michelangelo and his Studio', London, 1953, no. 16, pp. 29-31 (with previous literature); L. Dussler, 'Die Zeichnungen des Michelangelo', Berlin, 1959, no. 562, p. 258 (as apocryphally attributed to Michelangelo); J. Bean, 'Bayonne, Musée Bonnat: les dessins italiens de la collection Bonnat', Paris, 1960, under no. 65; S.J Freedberg, 'Drawings for Sebastiano or Drawings by Sebastiano?: A Problem Reconsidered', "The Art Bulletin", XLV, 1963, pp. 253-8; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., London, BM, 'Drawings by Michelangelo', 1975, no. 40, p. 43; C. de Tolnay, 'Corpus dei disegni di Michelangelo', Novara, 1975, I, no. 76; J.A.Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo from the BM', 1979, no. 9, p. 56; M. Hirst, 'Sebastiano del Piombo', Oxford, 1981, pp. 67, 69-70; M. Hirst, in exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art and Paris, Louvre, 'Michelangelo Draftsman', 1988, under no. 21 (= W 17), pp. 55-6; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: closer to the master', 2005, no. 34, p. 148

    This drawing 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 XV and described there as 'Michelangelo Buonarroti, Lazarus Rising from the Grave, With Accessory Figures and Studies of Feet.'


  • Bibliography

    • Wilde 1953 16 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1964 BM, Michelangelo, no. 16 1975 Feb-April, BM, Drawings by Michelangelo, no. 40 1975 June-July, London, National Gallery, 'The Renaissance', no. 226 1979 April-July, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Michelangelo from the BM', no.9
    2005/6 Oct-Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
    2006 Mar-June, BM, 'Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master'
    2010 Feb-May, London, Courtauld Galleries, Michelangelo's Dream
    2014 May-Sep, Rome, Capitoline Museums, 'Michelangelo'
    2017 15 Mar-25 Jun, London, The National Gallery, Sebastiano-Michelangelo

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Lazarus, nude, seated on a sarcophagus, supported by two figures; studies of a l foot and, bottom r, a summary sketch of a r shoulder seen from above. 1516 Red chalk


Lazarus, nude, seated on a sarcophagus, supported by two figures; studies of a l foot and, bottom r, a summary sketch of a r shoulder seen from above. 1516 Red chalk

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PDO8161

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help