Re-discovery of a double-sided drawing by Michelangelo in Rennes

6/11/10 – Discovery – Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts – Discovering a work by Michelangelo in a French public collection is no everyday thing. This incredible finding however did indeed turn up at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes while organizing a special-study exhibition on Marteen van Heemskerck and his altarpiece, Saint Luke Painting the Virgin which we will soon discuss on this site.

1. Michelangelo Buonarroti,
called Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Anatomic Study of a Man, front
Pencil and brown ink - 35 x 13.8 cm
Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts

2. Michelangelo Buonarroti,
called Michelangelo (1475-1564)
Nude Man, back
Pencil and brown ink - 35 x 13.8 cm
Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Photo : Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Art

The drawing (ill. 1) comes, as most of the others in Rennes, from the collection of the Marquis de Robien, where it was attributed to Andrea Boscoli. It was then ascribed to Michelangelo in the 19th century but this identification was then contested by most authors, including Berenson who, after rejecting it, then accepted it as possible but with no formal proof, and Tolnay who denied it outright. However, Sylvie Géguin, in an article on the “Nu maniériste” published in Connaissance des Arts in 1978, proposed once again Michelangelo’s name. This sheet was nonetheless still listed as being by an “Anonymous Florentine artist, between 1540 and 1550” in recent publications, notably in the catalogue for the Disegno exhibition presenting the museum’s Italian drawings.
Paul Joannides (who will publish this sheet in an article in La Revue des Musées de France appearing in 2011), convinced that the drawing could actually be by the master, asked that it be opened so that he could look at the back (ill. 2). Another nude study thus appeared as well as a signature which reads either “Lenardo” or “(A)lessandro” and which can be found on other drawings by the sculptor. This is then the final proof that the drawing is in fact by Michelangelo.

Didier Rykner, samedi 6 novembre 2010

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