In the beginning of April I went to London to study drawings by Michelangelo Buonarroti. I have this group where we study Italian drawings and this semester and last we have been studying this great draughtsman. We were very privileged as our professor had made a wonderful and dense program including a visit to The British Museum before opening hours, talks with leading scolars of Michelangelo and Italian art as such. To top it all we ended our stay in Windsor where we entered the marvelous print room of the Royal Collection. I did ask if I could take a group picture in there but they wouldn’t let me so you’ll just have to imagine two large spaces with wooden ornamented ceilings and glass cases lining the walls. Inside the cases were tons of boxes with hand written signs reading “Leonardo da Vinci”, “Raphael”, “Michelangelo”, “Guercino”, “Germany 15th Century” etc. etc. And the names I refer to were not written on one or two boxes, no, no there were at least fifteen of each. Such wealth.
We were there for Michelangelo and we saw some of his most famous drawings and among them the ones he drew for his love Tommaso de’ Cavalieri. One of them “The Archers” is a wonderful red chalk drawing showing a group of young people aiming at a herm. The funny thing about the drawing is that none of the archers have a bow and yet you complete the image in your mind.
After leaving the print room walking out into the sun I convinced the group (not hard at all) to do a staged photo. They were to pose as “The Archers”. Our professor generously played the role of herm and the rest positioned themselves as archers and putto. I have a love for staged photos and this is already a treasured one.
First the original (sorry I could only find a high definition in black and white, you must imagine the red chalk):
(if you are dying to see the red chalk look here )

And now our version:
Danish Archers



April 18, 2006. Photos, Staged photos, Travels.


  1. Shirley replied:

    Only recently I read the novel about Michelangelo’s life, The Agony and the Estasy. It is a tremendously moving book. Thanks for the post.



  2. confidentialattachees replied:

    I love that novel! I read it before I began studying history of art, but it spurred my interest and because of that novel I feel some special bond with Michelangelo. Hereby recommended!

  3. zipser replied:

    I did research on the Michelangelo Drawings exbhibition when it was in Haarlem. I found that the exhibition presented a distorted view, especially with respect to M.’s pen drawings. What do you think?

    Best, Karl Zipser, Ph.D.

  4. confidentialattachees replied:

    Interesting article. The study group I’m in has been discussing this issue often and we actually dismissed one drawing in The Courtauld Institute (not in the exhibition) as a fake done by, perhaps, Eric Hebborn.
    I agree that the enormous number of drawings in the exhibition gives some chance of including fakes as well. Still, I have great respect for Hugo Chapman’s power of judgment and he knows the drawings from The British Museum by heart I am sure. Drawings that he would seriously doubt would certainly have been attributed to others than Michelangelo or at least have a question mark after the name of the master. Don’t think I am blind to the powers of self delusion, but still I believe that too much is at stake for an art historian to knowingly forge a fake;-)

    I actually discussed the difference between M. and others with Chapman, looking at two of the ‘Teste Divine’ one of which was not attributed to M.. So of course Chapman is very aware of the problems you discuss. He is after all a traditional drawings’ man and that is part of the business.
    As to the incorrectness of anatomy I think as you that there are certain lower limits as to how bad M. could draw anatomy. But I also think that we have to regard M. as a mannerist. In The Battle of Cascina you could argue that it is a bit early for mannerism, but it is not completely untypical to find bodily distortions in Michelangelo drawings. I mean, just look at his female figures!

    As to the techniques I think you should remember that a fraud would always try to look as much like the original artist as possible. And this includes techniques. So if it’s not very typical for M. to use white heightening that is not what a forger would choose to reproduce. It’s just not logic.

    I didn’t think about an overrepresentation of pen drawings. You may be right, I don’t remember.

    I have only read parts of Chapman’s catalogue since my main interest was the drawings for Vittoria Colonna. So I cannot include myself in the elect few who had read the catalogue carefully…


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