Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 150

MICHELANGELO / Two drawings
Reworking and erasure in two drawings
by the aged Michelangelo
Fig. 1 / Michelangelo, Study
for a Door, ca. 1548 and ca.
1560, black chalk, reworked
with brown wash and leadwhite gouache, reworked
again with black chalk,
41.9 x 28.7 cm, Oxford, The
Ashmolean Museum.
In an impeccably documented and visually perceptive
article of 1993, Andrew Morrogh established that
Michelangelo’s detailed involvement with the Palazzo
dei Conservatori began later – ca. 1560 – than had
previously been assumed and continued later. In the
course of his discussion he demonstrated that two
drawings (figs. 1 & 2), previously placed in the late
1540s and assumed to be preparatory for windows and
doors in Palazzo Farnese, could instead be connected
with two doors in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, and
concluded that they should be dated accordingly.1
However, although the drawings were largely executed
in that combination of thick chalk lines, loosely
handled brown wash and lavishly applied body colour
characteristic of Michelangelo around 1560, the initial
line work – and the inscription in the tablet on one (see
fig. 2) – supported the earlier date when Michelangelo’s
hand was firmer and his line-work thinner. Thanks to
a sheet of drawings that came to light only in 1998, it
became clear that both views of the purpose and dating
of these drawings were correct: Michelangelo indeed
made them in the later 1540s with Palazzo Farnese in
mind, but reworked both of them a dozen years later
for the Capitoline scheme.2
reason for, on the verso (fig. 4), is a copy of the left arm
sketched by Michelangelo on the verso of the original
(fig. 5), a superfluous element if the copyist’s priority
was the architectural study. The Fogg sheet is, in fact,
a facsimile of the Oxford sheet before Michelangelo
reworked the recto and added sketches for the drum
of Saint Peter’s to the verso. The creation of such a
facsimile perhaps implies that the draughtsman wanted
to create a corpus of copies; its exactness suggests deep
reverence for the master’s graphic production.
The recto of this sheet (fig. 3), in the Fogg Museum
of Art, copies one of the Ashmolean drawings (see
fig. 1) in its original state.3 It is the same size as, and
was probably traced from, the original and must have
been made between ca. 1548 and ca. 1560. One might
assume that an assistant of Michelangelo wished to
record the original architectural concept before the
master submerged it, but this cannot have been the only
That some of Michelangelo’s figure drawings
were made available to other artists has long been
appreciated: copies exist by Giulio Clovio, Alessandro
Allori, and perhaps Marcello Venusti. Most frequently
copied were the highly finished presentation drawings
that Michelangelo made in the 1530s. But it can
now be shown that Michelangelo allowed another
draughtsman to copy a late figural composition and
It is well known that several sheets by Michelangelo
carry drawings of different dates on recto and verso,
and it seems that he sometimes looked to old visual
ideas for inspiration.4 But reworking earlier drawings
seems to have been a feature only of his final years.
The Fogg sheet also demonstrates that Michelangelo
allowed another draughtsman to record his work.
This draughtsman cannot securely be identified,
but the most likely candidate in the present case is
Tiberio Calcagni (1532-1565) on whom the aged
Michelangelo placed great reliance: it was Tiberio
who made the fair copy of Michelangelo’s final plan
for San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.


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