Although Casa Buonarroti contained by far the largest collection of Michelangelo’s drawings, it was not alone.
Michelangelo himself at some date gave one of the cartoons for the Sistine ceiling to his friend, the Florentine
banker Bindo Altoviti. And it seems inevitable that if he gave away cartoons, hewould have given drawings also. As
late as 1560, he sent to Leone Leone, in gratitude for the portrait medal of him that Leone had made, a wax model
of the Hercules and Antaeus that he had hoped to carve in 1524 – thus he had retained the model for thirty-five
years and had presumably transported it from Florence to Rome – plus a number of drawings.
A sheet in the Albertina carries an inscription indicating that the sculptor had given it to the inscriber, perhaps his pupil Jacomo del Duca, in 1560. And although we have no certain knowledge of Michelangelo making drawings specifically as gifts before the 1520s, when he is recorded as giving highly finished drawings to his young friend Gherardo Perini, there is no reason to suppose that he had not done so. Indeed, the highly finished nature of some of Michelangelo’s early copies after Masaccio suggests that they too were Presentation Drawings and were not done only as exercises – and none has an ascertainable provenance from Casa Buonarroti. He continued to make drawings as gifts in the 1530s, and 1540s, most notably to Tommaso de’ Cavalieri and Vittoria Colonna, but other friends were no doubt occasional recipients.138 However, gifts of this type were probably less common than more practical ones – drawings given to other artists to assist them with compositions – such as Sebastiano del Piombo and Pontormo. And Vasari tells us that Michelangelo’s humbler artistic friends sometimes requested designs that the master – always an enemy of pretension – cheerfully fulfilled.
The result of this generosity on Michelangelo’s part – and there must have been many other cases of which we
have no record – is that there was some knowledge of Michelangelo’s drawings fairly early on. Raphael copied
a pen drawing c. 1506, and the influence of Michelangelo’s technique on Raphael’s drawings suggests that thiswas not the only one that he knew.140 It seems certain too that some of Michelangelo’s drawings were known to Andrea
del Sarto.141 Michelangelo’s pupils and assistants, although most are shadowy figures, must have known, and probably possessed, groups of his drawings. Michelangelo was a fluent and impatient draughtsman, and it is inevitable that, though some drawings would have been retained carefully – he asked his father in 1506 to send to Rome a bundle of drawings – odd sheets and fragments would have strayed from his studio. Titian, by 1520, certainly
knew a Michelangelo design for a Slave, which survives in drawings, and reproduced it in his Saint Sebastian for
the Averoldi Polyptych, under way in that year. The sculptor Bartolommeo Bergamasco, active in Venice at
the same time, based his Saint Sebastian on the high altar of San Rocco on a Michelangelo design – now known only
in a copy by Mini – for another slave.143 There was also a theft. In 1530 the young Bartolommeo Ammanati and
his friend Nanni di Baccio Bigio broke into Michelangelo’s studio in the via Mozza and took from it a number
of the master’s drawings and models, which, evidently, were not all retained in one place. They were compelled
to return the drawings, but it is highly unlikely that they did so before making copies of them. Nevertheless, by
this time, if not earlier, Michelangelo had become very secretive, at least with powerful and exigent patrons, and
in 1527 it was remarked by a rare visitor to his studio that Michelangelo “non mostra cosa alcuna ad alcuno.”
Michelangelo, as is well known, burned large quantities of his drawings at different times. One such episode
is documented as early as 1517 when he commanded his friend Leonardo Sellaio to destroy a number of the cartoons
in his Roman workshop. Sellaio expressed reluctance but told Michelangelo that it had been done. However,
human nature being what it is, it seems unlikely that he would not have succumbed to temptation and kept at
least a few of the more beautiful sheets for himself. In any case, Michelangelo’s destructions were not total. And
although he may well have burned drawings before leaving Florence finally in 1534, he undoubtedly took others
with him to Rome. Michelangelo sometimes re-used old sheets, on occasion after as much as thirty years, which,
of course, is irrefutable proof that he preserved them.
Michelangelo also destroyed much of his Roman graphic production shortly before he died, but a number of drawings survived. The few known studies for the Last Judgement probably left his studio in chance ways, a few architectural drawings, particularly of the late Roman buildings, may have been spared from the flames intentionally, and the late Crucifixion drawings were so intimately bound with Michelangelo’s search for salvation that they too were preserved. Because virtually all of the architectural studies and some of the Crucifixion drawings went to Casa Buonarroti, it is likely that they were found in his studio after his death. Although the posthumous inventory was fairly full, not every scrap of paper was recorded, and Michelangelo’s nephew Leonardo would have retrieved such drawings with Michelangelo’s other possessions. It is, of course, possible that some drawings were liberated by others immediately after Michelangelo’s death and only later entered Casa Buonarroti, and some of those, such as the Crucifixion drawings atWindsor, which seem never to have been in Casa Buonarroti, may have been given to friends and associates – or stolen – while Michelangelo was still alive.
Aswe know, Michelangelo made presents of highly finished drawings to his friends in both Florence and Rome,
and some of these were eagerly copied. We learn from a letter from Tommaso de’ Cavalieri to Michelangelo of
September 1533, only a few months after Cavalieri had received the three Presentation Drawings from Michelangelo,
that Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici had borrowed one to have a crystal engraved from it and wanted to do the
same with the others. It seems clear, therefore, that in both cities Michelangelo’s Presentation Drawings were
eagerly copied, in some cases within weeks or months of their reception. Francesco Salviati, for example, was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici to produce a now-lost coloured copy of the Fall of Phaeton, which
Michelangelo had given to Tommaso. Certain aspects of Bronzino’s drawing style can probably be explained by
knowledge of Michelangelo’s highly finished drawings, and some copies of the Presentation Drawings and other
finished drawings can safely be attributed to his pupil, Alessandro Allori. Allori spent some five years in Rome
from 1555 to 1560, avidly copying Michelangelo’s works, particularly the Last Judgement. He had personal contact
with the master, who was thanked for his kindness to the young man in a letter of 12 February 1560 by Benedetto
Varchi.144 It is very likely that Alessandro had sight of some of Michelangelo’s studies, for at least two of his
drawings, made shortly after his return to Florence, for the Cleansing of the Temple in the Montauto Chapel in Santissima Annunziata, are hardly explicable without direct knowledge of the black chalk style adopted by Michelangelo in his preparatory drawings for the Last Judgement.
The four Michelangelo drawings with the initials of Rubens are all of spectacular beauty. Three of these are
en-suite with drawings now in Haarlem, but they bear neither the Bona Roti inscription nor Irregular Numbering
(to be discussed later), and if they did belong to that series, they must have been separated from it before
inscriptions or numbers were applied. On balance, however, it is more likely that the separation occurred within
Michelangelo’s lifetime. One of the drawings owned by Rubens, Michelangelo’s pen study of a standing nude
from the rear (BK118/Corpus 22) was known in France around 1570 when it was copied in La Natation one of
the drawings of the Suite d’Artemise.
Il Signor Filippo Cicciaporci, gentiluomo Fiorentino, ha una copiossisima e singolar raccolta di disegni di vari, e tutti d’insegni professori tanto antichi che moderni. Ella in gran parte proviene da una collezione, che aveva fatta gi`a il cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d’Arpino, che egli poi `e andato sempre aumentando.
It is particularly significant that this cache also included a number of drawings by Daniele da Volterra.
Filippo Cicciaporci’s collection seems to have been dispersed – probably in Rome rather than Florence –
around 1765, shortly after Bottari published his edition of Vasari. The main immediate beneficiary was no doubt the Rome-based sculptor, restorer, and art-dealer, Bartolommeo Cavaceppi – listed by Ottley as the intermediate
owner of all the drawings said to come from Cicciaporci – and a number of drawings with this provenance were
eventually acquired by William Young Ottley. Among themwere certainly some genuine drawings by Michelangelo,
including one in the British Museum (W29/Corpus 97), which is similar in pen style and approach to Cat. 22.
Cat. 22 itself was never owned by Ottley but was acquired by Woodburn from Baron Dominique-Vivant Denon,
who may have been another beneficiary, via Cavaceppi, from the dispersal of the Cicciaporci Collection when he
was in Italy in the 1780s and 1790s. Vivant Denon owned the famous Dragon, Cat. 28, which is similar in style
to the Sybil and may also have been acquired in Italy – although in this instance a strong argument can be made
for a French provenance.Much less is known about Daniele’s other major pupil, Michele degli Alberti, who also presumably acquired a portion of the drawings left by his master. But it would be tempting to identify him – or the still more shadowy Feliciano di San Vito – as the owner of a group of Michelangelo drawings, including a few copies by close followers, that has recently been partly reconstituted.
These drawings can be identified by distinctive inscriptions or by distinctive numberings or both. The inscription
usually reads di Michel Angelo Bona Roti or some close variant and is often accompanied by a number, written
by a different hand. Both inscription and number seem to be of the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.
It is likely that the Bona Roti inscriptions precede the numbers. The numbers rise as high as 96, and this
series probably ran to around 100 sheets; at least seven are in the Ashmolean. However, because not all the drawings carry both inscriptions and numbers, it is impossible to say whether those sheets that carry one and not
the other were separated before those that carry both, or whether they are simply sheets that were later trimmed or
subdivided. It is also a matter for conjecture whether the drawings that bear both inscriptions and numbers passed
through two collections successively or remained in a single collection but were marked at different moments by
different hands. The compiler is inclined to favour the latter explanation, but it is safer to treat them as though
they were owned by two collectors, to be dubbed, respectively, the Bona Roti Collector and the Irregular Numbering
The largest group of such sheets is now in the Teyler Museum in Haarlem. The Teyler’s holding of Michelangelo
drawings is the remains of a collection formed primarily in Italy, between 1629 and 1637, probably from a
combination of single and group purchases, by the artist and writer Joachim von Sandrart. Sandrartmust have been
in touch with the owners of caches of Michelangelo drawings, and virtually all those that are known today with a
secure provenance from his collection are of high quality.
In particular might be mentioned a group of extraordinarily beautiful drawings made for the Sistine ceiling. It
is in principle possible that Sandrart acquired some of his drawings from the Cavaliere d’Arpino, but his single
most significant source of Michelangelo drawings was probably the owner of the Bona Roti/Irregular Numbering
group. It is certain that the inscriptions and numberings were applied to these drawings before Sandrart
acquired them, and not after. One obvious reason for saying this is that Sandrart possessed a number of drawings
by Raphael and his studio that are also now at Haarlem, and whose later provenance is identical with that
of the Michelangelos, and none of these drawings bears comparable inscriptions or numbers.170 It is notable that
the Michelangelo drawings in the Teyler Museum include both of the figure-studies for Cascina, which were known
in Rome in the 1550s and 1560, plus another sheet of which both sides contain drawings executed by Michelangelo
specifically for Daniele, one made in preparation for the statue of Saint Paul commissioned from Daniele for
the Ricci chapel in San Pietro in Montorio, for which he ordered marble in 1556, and the other side for Daniele’s
Aeneas Commanded by Mercury to Relinquish Dido, a painting being prepared by Daniele for Giovanni della Casa
in 1555–6.171 It is tempting to conclude that the inscriptions and the numbers are related to the group of sheets putatively owned by Michele degli Alberti rather than those owned by Giacomo Rocca, given that those that
were most probably Rocca’s and that passed though the collections of the Cavaliere d’Arpino and the Cicciaporci
family before eventually being dispersed from the last, bear neither inscription nor number. As a working
hypothesis, it may be submitted that Michele degli Alberti and whoever obtained possession of the drawings
after Michele’s death might be identified as, respectively, the Bona Roti collector and the Irregular Numbering
Collector – or vice versa.
Sandrart did not acquire the Bona Roti/Irregular Numbering series in its entirety, and it is virtually certain
that some drawings had already been separated out and purchased by other collectors. One of the Michelangelo
drawings so inscribed, now at Christ Church, was copied in an etching in the Caraccesque publication, “La scuola
perfetta,” shortly after 1600 and may well have been on the market at this time.173 And one of the sheets owned
by Bernardo Buontalenti, that now is in the British Museum (W27/Corpus 185), also bears an irregular number (No. 23). This sheet subsequently passed to Casa Buonarroti together with Michelangelo the Younger’s acquisition of a group of Michelangelo drawings once owned by Buontalenti, where it joined at least one drawing still bearing the Irregular Number, and another which probably once did, which may have been acquired by Michelangelo the Younger at the presumed dispersal of the collection.
There is also at least one case in which the Cavaliere d’Arpino seems to have added a drawing from the Bona Roti/Irregular Numbering series to those that we may assume he had acquired from Giacomo Rocca. A Michelangelo drawing in the Louvre, which bears on its recto the Bona Roti inscription and the irregular number 21, carries on its verso the inscription Arpino, which – whether it is taken as an indication of the inscriber’s view of the drawing’s authorship or ownership – shows that it was believed to have been in his possession. There is also, as we shall see, a later moment at which some of the Bona Roti/Irregular Numbering series could have come onto the market. Indeed, partial dispersals from this series or related ones could have occurred at various times.
It is likely that Sandrart acquired some drawings by Michelangelo other than those that had formed part of
the Bona Roti/Irregular Numbering series. Thus, not all the drawings in Haarlem bear either inscriptions or
numbers, and among these is the Running Man for the Battle of Cascina already mentioned, the figure employed
by Michele degli Alberti and Giacomo Rocca in 1568.
Thus, it may be that some drawings putatively inherited by Rocca did not follow the others into the Cavaliere
d’Arpino’s collection but were dispersed individually and that, by the 1620s, a few drawings by Michelangelo
that had been together in Daniele da Volterra’s possession some sixty years earlier and had subsequently been divided between or among his pupils had drifted back onto the market and had subsequently rejoined one another in collections formed in early seicento Rome.
Sandrart’s collection was acquired, apparently in tranches between 1645 and 1651, by Pieter Spiering van Silfvercroon, the Swedish ambassador to Holland. Silfvercroon’s collection, in which a libro of drawings by
Michelangelo was specifically mentioned, was acquired from Silfvercroon and his heirs by Queen Christina
between 1651 and 1653. Following her abdication in 1654, Christina’s collection of drawings travelled with
her to Italy: Whether she further augmented it there is unknown. At her death in 1689, her various collections
were bequeathed to Cardinal Decio Azzolini. Azzolini died shortly thereafter, and the drawings were subsequently
sold by his nephew to the Duke of Bracciano, Don Livio Odescalchi. Livio added a very large number of drawings to the collection, and, after his death in 1713, an inventory, which numbered 10,160 sheets and five sketchbooks; was compiled. Among these is listed an album of 23 pages – perhaps the libro referred to by Silfvercroon – containing
in se carta ventitre, e tra questo una `e tagliata in mezzo, ed in dette carte si trovano incollati parte, e parte staccati disegni in tutto numero trenta-due tutti di Michelangelo Buona Roto, detto Libro quantunque apparisca cartolato sino al numero cento, restano nulladimeno solamente alle sudette carte ventitre vedendonis tutte le altre tagliate et portate via.
Thus, from an album that had once contained one hundred pages mounted with drawings by or attributed to Michelangelo – a significant total in relation to the irregular numberings – only twenty-three pages remained, on
which thirty-two drawings were either still fastened or from which they had come loose. By this token, the whole
album would once have contained, presumably, about 150 drawings. It is odd that a collector so evidently passionate
as the Duke of Bracciano would have disposed of so large a portion of his precious drawings, and it is open to suspicion that the remaining sheets of the album had either been pilfered between the death of the Duke and
the taking of the inventory, or, more likely, removed from the album by Azzolini’s nephew before he sold the collection to the Duke: If so, this would account for the fact that other Michelangelo drawings bearing the Bona Roti and Irregular Numbering inscriptions came onto the art market in the eighteenth century. Two of these drawings, both now in the Ashmolean, were owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds (Cats. 20, 26).
In the inventory of the Duke of Bracciano, it is also noted that there were 282 drawings of the “Capella Sestina
del Vaticano fatti di Michelangelo,” but it is evident that most, if not all, of these were copies – sixty-eight,
after engravings after figures from the Sistine ceiling – remain together at Haarlem.176 It is probable that the
album of autograph drawings by Michelangelo was that made up by Sandrart, which had remained intact while
in Christina’s collection and which was only subsequently dismembered. If so Sandrart would have owned one of
the largest – and best – collections ever formed of drawings by Michelangelo. There is no evidence to suggest
when the remaining seventy-seven pages, probably containing over one hundred sheets of drawings, were cut
from the album or where they went, but their number may account for some of the other drawings that seem to
have become available in Rome in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, such as the study for Libica,
now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, which was probably owned by Carlo Maratta.177 That this sheet once
formed part of the Sandrart-Christina group is suggested by the Bona Roti inscription that it bears.
It seems that no further dispersals from this album at least of Michelangelo drawings, were made between
whatever was presented to Crozat and its sale to the trustees of the Teyler Museum in Haarlem in the 1790s
by Don Livio’s descendants. Although it is debatable whether the Teyler Museum contains thirty-two autograph
sheets, the number comes close to that, and it is likely that the Christina-Odescalchi album contained predominantly genuine drawings.
Pierre Crozat, who, from 1714 onward, negotiated the sale of the Duke of Bracciano’s paintings to the Duke
d’Orl´eans, received as his fee one hundred drawings from the Odescalchi collection. According to Mariette, some
sixty of these were of real value, and they may have included a few by Michelangelo. But given the quality
of the drawings acquired by the Teyler Museum only seventy years later, it seems evident that Crozat was not
offered the top of the range. In any case, no drawing with an identifiable Crozat provenance bears either the Bona
Roti inscription or an Irregular Numbering.
Crozat did, nevertheless, obtain at least one major Michelangelo in Italy. It was probably in 1714 that he
acquired numerous sheets – including some by Raphael – from the heirs of the Cardinal of Santi Quattro, who
had formed his collection in the first half of the seventeenth century. Among these was a large drawing
by Michelangelo of Christ and the Samaritan Woman.
Recorded in Crozat’s posthumous sale of 1741, traceable in further sales until 1807, it was then lost to sight until 1981 when it was rediscovered in the Bodmer Library in Geneva; it was subsequently sold by Sotheby’s in New
York on 28 January 1998, lot 102.178 From the characteristic inscription on its recto, it is certain that it had been owned by the Cardinal.
Gori remarked that, apart from the Grand Ducal Collections, there were other collections of drawings by
Michelangelo in Florence. Among these was that of Filippo Cicciaporci, of which Bottari’s account has been
cited previously. Gori also refers to the collection of Senatore Pandolfo Pandolfini, who had inherited the personal collection formed by Filippo Baldinucci, comprising four large volumes of drawings, arranged in historical order.
In his edition of Vasari, Bottari somewhat amplifies this information: I figli Pandolfini eredi del Senator Pandolfo Pandolfini uomo dotto, e dilettante delle belle arti, e promotore degli artefici, hanno molti disegni originali di Michelangelo, de’ quanti alcuni sono in cornice col loro cristallo, e alcuni sono inseriti
in 4 tomi di vari disegni, che si era formati per suo studio e diletto, il celebre Filippo Baldinucci, nel tempo che egli ordino i 130 grossi volumi di disegni della immortal regia Casa de’ Medici, per ordine del cardinale Leopoldo della stessa famiglia. E siccome questi distribuigli per ordine cronologico del tempo in cui fiorivano quelli artefici, cosi lui distribuili i detti quattro suoi tomi.
These volumes were acquired for the Louvre in 1806, but they contained no drawings now accepted as original
studies by Michelangelo. There seems to be no further information about the framed and glazed drawings,
among which could well have been some originals, and it may be that these were disposed of separately. It was the
disruptions in Florence of the late eighteenth century – beginning with the dis-establishment of many religious
orders – that released a flood of works of art onto the market and accelerated the liquidation of the city’s artistic capital. This, of course, was greatly increased by the European wars of the 1790s. And it was from this situation, to return to our starting-point, that Sir Thomas Lawrence profited so comprehensively.