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Christ on the Cross between the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist

Christ on the Cross between the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist
black chalk, watermark encircled lily (cf. Piccard Online, no. 128676, used in Rome, 1566)
14 7/8 x 8 ¾ in. (37.2 x 21.9 cm)
Gustave Soulier (1872-1937), Florence (L. 1215a).
Henri (1917-1982) and Suzanne Paradis (1917-1988), Saint-Étienne (L. 4361) .
P. Joannides, ‘Reworking and erasure in two drawings by the aged Michelangelo’, in Colnaghi Studies, no. 2, March 2018, p. 154, fig. 6.

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Lot Essay

This is a copy, made by an artist from his close circle, of Michelangelo’s drawing in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle from around 1560-1564 (inv. RCIN 912775; see A. Gnann in Michelangelo. The Drawings of a Genius, exhib. cat., Vienna, Albertina, no. 124, ill.). The watermark suggests a date in Rome circa 1566, a few years after the drawing was created. In the last years of his life, Michelangelo drew the Crucifixion repeatedly as a sustained and profoundly felt spiritual exercise; other complete sheets from the group are also in the Royal Collection (inv. RCIN 912761), as well as in the British Museum (inv. 1895,0915.510), the Louvre (inv. 700) and the Ashmolean Museum (inv. 1846.89; for a recent discussion of the group, see C.C. Bambach, Michelangelo. Divine Draftsman and Designer, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017-2018, pp. 222-231). The Y-shaped cross seen in the present work (but not in the original it is after) as well as in the other drawing at Windsor, is an archaic form which, according to Michelangelo’s biographer Ascanio Condivi, the artist knew from a crucifix in Santa Croce, Florence.

Alessandro Nova has suggested that Michelangelo was planning a painting on the subject as an altarpiece for the Capella Paolina at the Vatican, to be executed by an associate, perhaps Marcello Venusti (‘Hat Michelangelo ein Altarbild fur di Cappella Paolina geplant?’, in Michelangelo als Zeichner. Akten des Internationalen Kolloquiums Wien, Albertina-Museum, Vienna, 2010, pp. 365-391).

We are grateful to Paul Joannides for his help in cataloguing the present drawing.

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