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In the late 1990s, Old Master drawings expert Julian Stock made an incredible discovery—a previously unknown Michelangelo drawing. Hiding in an unmarked book at England’s Castle Howard, the study of a mourning woman from early in Michelangelo’s career had not been seen for generations. This drawing is now part of the Getty Museum’s collection. In this episode, Stock tells the story of this discovery and the process of verifying the authenticity of his remarkable find.

drawing in brown ink of a female figure facing left and wrapped in cloth. On faded, brownish paper.

Study of a Mourning Woman, about 1500–1505, Michelangelo Buonarroti. Pen and brown ink, heightened with white lead opaque watercolor, 10 1/4 × 6 1/2 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017.78

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Michelangelo, Study of a Mourning Woman


JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art & Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.

JULIEN STOCK:  I open the book and I start going through. And sort of over halfway through, I come across this drawing of the mourning woman. And I look at it and I said, “This is by— this is by Michelangelo.”

CUNO: In this episode I speak with Julien Stock, an expert in Old Master drawings, about his astonishing discovery of a previously unknown Michelangelo drawing from England’s Castle Howard. This drawing was featured in a recent exhibition of the Getty Museum’s new acquisitions before being shown in Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer, a monumental exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Until recently, Julien Stock was head of Old Master drawings at Sotheby’s London. In the late 1990s, while doing research in the library of the early eighteenth-century country house Castle Howard, he came across a drawing of a standing woman in a state of mourning. The name of the drawing’s maker was not indicated, but the drawing bore the collector’s mark of the distinguished eighteenth-century artist and connoisseur Jonathan Richardson. That gave Stock pause, for Richardson was one of the greatest connoisseurs of his day.

Intrigued by this fact and by the evident quality of the drawing itself, Stock began his research and ultimately concluded that the drawing was one of a small group of large-scale figure studies made by Michelangelo early in his career, likely between 1500 and 1505. This conclusion caused an international sensation. For excluding the Michelangelo drawings in England’s Royal Collection, only four important drawings by the Renaissance master were still in private hands. Happily, the Castle Howard drawing is now accessible to the public as part of the collection of the Getty Museum.

I recently sat down with Julien Stock to learn more about this drawing and the circumstances of its discovery.

Well, Julien, thank you so much for your time this morning on the podcast, and for your coming to the Getty to lecture us on this Michelangelo drawing which until you discovered it, was an unknown drawing, as I understand it. Could you describe the drawing for us, and describe also how you found it and how you came to recognize it as a Michelangelo drawing?

STOCK:  Yes. I was working at Sotheby’s. And Sotheby’s regularly, every five years, did a valuation, revaluation, of the Castle Howard, contents of Castle Howard, Vanbrugh, eighteenth century. And I was up there valuing, revaluing all the paintings.

This was a three-day job. And on the last day, my colleague James Miller[sp?] had finished. So he thought he’d pop into the library and spend some time in the library, because he’d got nothing to do; he’d finished looking at his pictures. I was still working away, looking at Old Master pictures, because Castle Howard has a lot. And he comes up to me. He pulls this large volume out, because there’s nothing written on the spine.

Now, why do you think James Miller pulled it out of the spine? Well, in every, almost every English country house, you would have large books with nothing written on the spine, because usually there was something naughty and Japanese in in it, if you get my meaning. So anyway, he pulls it out and there are all the drawings.

So he comes up to me in one of the other rooms, says, “Oh, Julien, I’ve just— I’ve been in the library. I’ve pulled out this scrapbook, and it’s full of Old Master drawings.” And I sort of swear at myself and say, you know, “Damn.” And say, “Okay, I’ll [inaudible]—

CUNO:  [over Stock; inaudible] Can I ask, was Castle Howard famous for its drawings, as well as its paintings?

STOCK:  No, not at all. [Cuno: inaudible] No. No, it doesn’t really have any [inaudible]

CUNO:  [over Stock] So was it was a surprise in itself, [Stock: So—] that there was an album of drawings.

STOCK:  We didn’t know. And this— After all, as I’ve just said, this is a revaluation. But not once; a revaluation three times. So three times, it was missed by the— You would’ve thought the book department—because the books would’ve been done—would’ve pulled it out and seen that there were drawings in— pasted into it. Or drawings on mounts. So I sort of curse and say, “Okay, I’ll go and have a look at it.” I open the book and I start going through.

And sort of over halfway through, I come across this drawing of the mourning woman. It’s a mourning woman, very Gothic, in the thirteenth, fourteenth century type of drapery. Very classical. And I look at it and I ss— I won’t tell you exactly what I said, but anyway. It was pretty— I was very excited. And I said, “This is by— this is by Michelangelo.”

CUNO:  Not because you knew that it existed, but because you knew by the look of it that it had to be. I mean, this—

STOCK:  Exactly.

CUNO:  This was an unknown drawing, and so [inaudible]—

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yeah, this was an un— Yes. So it’s just the way it was drawn made me immediately think of Michelangelo.

CUNO:  Yeah. Now, I know the drawing’s been described as the most important Michelangelo to be discovered in living memory. What makes the drawing so important?

STOCK:  We’re not sure about living memory, but I would say— Well, it’s an early work. So this is a— in a way, it’s a teenage Michelangelo. So he’s probably eighteen or nineteen, you know, at the most twenty, twenty-one. So he— it’s that young. And there are only five drawings of this type that exist. And for example, Italy, the whole of Italy, has no drawing like this. There’s one in the Albertina, which is double-sided; there’s one in the Louvre; there’s one in the British Museum that I knew very well, because when I joined Sotheby’s all those years ago, in ’64, every morning—it was such a civilized company then, as it was privately owned—every morning, I was told, “You go to the British Museum and you look at drawings. “We have employed you to become a drawing expert. And by jingo, that is what you’re going to do.” So every morning, I went to the BM, and I knew the British Museum Michelangelo drawing.

CUNO:  Oh, yeah.  So when you saw it, you saw it as in relationship to those particular drawings? Or did you just say—

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yeah, the [inaudible]—

CUNO:  The same kind of ink, the same kind of paper, the same kind of…

STOCK:  Exactly.

CUNO:  …pen, I suppose, because it’s pen and ink.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yes. Same kind of pen, same kind of hatching and cross hatching. But of course, my colleagues who were there said, “Oh, you know, come off it.”

CUNO:  Right.

STOCK:  You know, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

CUNO:  Impossible to find a new Michelangelo.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] “A Michelangelo drawing in it.” You know, “Go home.” So— But of course— and of course, that’s when my work began, because then I had to think very carefully, how can I get everybody to agree with me that it’s by Michelangelo?

CUNO:  Well, before we get to that, could you describe the drawing for us?

STOCK:  Yes, it—

CUNO:  What it looks like.

00:05:40:29     STOCK:  It’s a profile of a mourning woman. She’s got a shawl over her head. And she’s obviously sad. She’s in profile, in very classical drapery, very gothic drapery that you get in artists like Giotto and Masaccio, that Michelangelo was very occupied with at that time. He admired, understandably, Giotto and Masaccio and other early thirteenth and fourteenth century artists, so he made lots of copies of— As a young man, as a twelve-, thirteen-, fourteen-, fifteen-year-old young man, that’s what he copied.

CUNO:  And not sculpture, but paintings.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] No, not sculpture, yes. Because some people find this very sculptural. I don’t find it personally very sculptural.

CUNO:  But clearly, when he was looking at these other artists to draw after them, he was interested in the volume of the figures they were painting, they painted.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Precisely, yes.

CUNO:  So there’s sculptural about the paintings, in effect, yeah.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Painting, yes. Yeah. And this very heavy— this very stoic— You know, there’s no movement in this drawing. This is figure which is standing very solid. It’s— that’s where, also, it’s very Michelangest, because she—and I’m sure it is a woman—is a very powerful woman, with large arms and— You know, she’s rather like Sebastiano del Piombo’s women, as well, who was a friend of Michelangelo. You know, when you look at Sebastiano del Piombo’s faces, and some Michelangelos as well, they’re very male. They’re not pretty-pretty females.

CUNO:  Yeah. Right, right. So you look at this drawing and you know that there are four or five others that might have some relationship to it.

STOCK:  Right.

CUNO:  Do you take pictures of the drawing with you to then compare with the other drawings? And then what is the process by which you plot out how you’re going to convince other people that it is, in fact, by Michelangelo?

STOCK:  Exactly. Well, that took quite a long time. Because one, I knew that the British Museum drawing, which was of a philosopher—we think it’s a philosopher, we’re not sure; but it’s definitely a man—made me think immediately of this drawing. I put two and two together.

I was allowed by Castle Howard to take the drawing from Castle Howard to Sotheby’s in London. And we took it out of the book, because it was still on the same mount when took it out of the book and photographed the whole book, all the drawings in the book.

And then I started work on it when I had time. Because I said to Castle Howard, “I can’t do this in— You know, this isn’t a two-day job. This is a— maybe a five- or ten-year job, because I’ve got to show it to people. So I went to the British Museum, of course, and showed it to the British Museum. And they were positive, but not 100% certain. There’s always a certain amount of jealousy, I guess, but also reluctance to accept something by a major artist. You know, are you really sure? Could it be by Baccio Bandinelli, for instance, who can be confused?

And on the back of the mount of this drawing, there are shelf marks, when it was in somebody called Jonathan Richardson’s collection. And he has BB. Which of course, some people would say, [Cuno: Baccio Bandinelli] Baccio Bandinelli; it must be.

CUNO:  Yeah, right, right, yeah.

STOCK:  You know? So you’ve got to be ready. One has to be ready for the negatives when people throw them up at you. For example, also, this drawing has white heightening, rather like your—well, I suppose nobody uses it now—Tipp-Ex, when your secretary was typing and there was a mistake, and you would Tipp-Ex over with white, and then draw over. So they would say, “Oh, but that white is added later.”

Well, in this— In, now, let’s call it the Getty drawing, the white is not added later; it’s absolutely by Michelangelo, because there’s underdrawing line in brown ink; and also over the white, there is brown ink, which is absolutely consistent. Her left arm and elbow, Michelangelo has obviously been dissatisfied with his original pen and ink part of that drawing. So he’s covered it with white, so that he can draw over it to get the form that he wants. So the white heightening here in this drawing is a correction.

CUNO:  So you photographed all the drawings in the book itself.

STOCK:  Yes.

CUNO:  You knew of four or five others that might be comparable to this drawing, that help you convince someone that this drawing [Stock: Yeah, right] is indeed by Michelangelo. Was there a— was there a provenance that was helpful to you? We know— You mentioned Richardson. Richardson owned it at one time.

STOCK:  Well, Richardson owned it one time. So of course, I looked up the Richardson sale catalog. But of course, there, you would just have, you know, a group of ten drawings; or two drawings, one by Michelangelo, for instance, and one by Salvator Rosa[?], sold together. Or you know, three Michelange and two [inaudible]. It was just a big, big jumble.

And I thought as the mount, the Richardson mount is cut—because normally, it would be twenty-two inches by sixteen, is the standard mount size that everybody used in the eighteenth century, nineteenth century, twentieth century; we still use it in Britain. Twenty-two sixteen is the— is the size. And this mount had been cut.

So often, Richard would write on the back of the mount. He would give a description or say what he thought it was. And there’s nothing on the back of this. And so I thought, now, that’s, in a way, strange. But you know, did Richardson actually know that he owned a Michelangelo? I’m not so sure.

CUNO:  Yeah. For our podcast listeners, tell us about Richardson briefly. I mean, we— He’s an eighteenth century collector.

STOCK:  Yeah, he’s an eighteenth century portrait painter, English. And he had a hu— enormous collection of drawings. And they were all sold in the 1760s. And everybody at that time, English aristocrats, were actually interested in Old Master drawings and Old Master prints and Old Master pictures, so they were buying. So Howard, Henry Howard, purchased this drawing, I think, in the sale.

Although we— we know that Howard bought it, because in the Victoria & Albert Museum, there’s a marked catalog, semi-marked catalog, where a Howard was buying in that sale. So one assumes that it must’ve been the same Howard.

CUNO:  So it’s been in the same collection—that is, in Howard— Castle Howard—for 225 years or something.

STOCK:  Yes, something like that. Yes, and that’s—

CUNO:  [over Stock] Yeah. And not re— not remarked upon in any one of those 225 years.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] No. And also, you see, also on the back of the mount, I noticed— These things don’t always come immediately. You know, sometimes you’re doing something else and you realize some— the penny drops somewhere and you scoot left instead of carrying on straight or going right. But on the back of the mount, there are acid stains.

Now, the acid stains are meant that it was definitely framed. Because when people framed things in the nineteenth century, orange boxes were usually used because they were the most cheapest form of wood because it was just a back board holding the drawing and the glass in the frame. And the resins in that wood that was used for the orange box would eventually, after time, go into the mount, but protect the drawing.

Which was so good, because they were using— this mount is on a pure rag, not on a— on a— on a paper, on a non-rag card. So I thought, now, it’s been framed at one time; now don’t tell me they didn’t realize that it was by Michelangelo. So I spent then three or four days going in the dungeons of Castle Howard, going through all the archives, trying to find any mention of Michelangelo. Couldn’t find anything.

So I found absolutely nothing about it. So we know that it was framed, we know that somebody must’ve looked at it. It’s still in wonderful condition. It’s probably one of these six early drawings which is in the best condition.

CUNO:  Yeah. So when you looked around at the six other drawings— And they’re all in museums, not one in private hands, [Stock: Yeah] so they all have a keeper in charge, a curator and a conservator has worked with them. So they have some considerable knowledge about those drawings. Did they— other than the British Museum, which you— which you’ve described to us had some skepticism about the drawing, how did the others respond to the drawing?

STOCK:  Well, I didn’t really want to show it to too many people, because I wanted to publish this because I thought, I’m never going to make another Michelangelo discovery, so I better keep quiet. So I would do with a photograph, a very good photograph of it, and look. Go to the Albertina and pull out that drawing, go to the Louvre and pull out that— go to Munich and pull out that drawing, and just show them the photograph.

Obviously, I couldn’t take the drawing, because it— Not that it was, at that time, authenticated. So there was still a question mark on it. You know, it could still have turned out, with everybody saying, “No, we know you’re right and it’s just a copy,” or “In our opinion, it’s not good enough.” In which case, you know, it goes back to Castle Howard and it’s just left in the book, until the next person comes along.

So I was very careful with who I showed it to. And also, there’s a very good corpus by a Michelangelo scholar called Tolnay, did four volumes of facsimile, wonderful facsimiles. A little bit red in the reproduct— but wonderful. So you could put it next to there and compare and be sure. Because I wanted to look at it many, many times in different moods. Because one day you’re in a good mood and you think one thing; and when you’re in— when you’re in a bad mood, you have another—

You know, your eyes or your mood changes your feeling towards a work of art.

CUNO:  So— and among these people you— to whom you showed the drawing, were there some academic-based [Stock: Yes] scholars?

STOCK:  I showed it to John Gere, obviously, who was then at the British Museum, and Philip Pouncey, both Michelangelo— Michael Hirst saw it, who was probably the most brilliant person who’s, sadly, just passed away. And Konrad, of course.

CUNO:  Konrad Oberhuber, yeah.

STOCK:  Yeah, and—

CUNO:  What did he say?

STOCK:  I mean, he thought absolutely.

CUNO:  [over Stock] So you’re getting opinions from others, who either question or confirmed your [Stock: Exactly] guess that it’s Michelangelo. And then you want to publish it. Is that the next step in the process?

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yeah, then— Well, no. Then I still hadn’t really finished everything and I— Because I thought, and I still think, that this is, as the other drawings, they’re all after Giotto or Masaccio. So I’m talking about four and one in Chantilly. Five drawings. And this is really the sixth. And these all have this incredible monumentality of drapery. They’re all— if you look at the Giotto frescos and Masaccio frescoes, you know, it fits perfectly. There can be no question that that’s what he’s been seeing.

Now, if Michelangelo, as a young man— And we know that he never stopped drawing. But we also know that he destroyed hundreds, if not thousands of his drawings. Burnt them, even. So we have six drawings after six figures in these— in— of these frescoes. But you know, where are all the others?

So it’s quite possible that this is for something. You know, it is a copy after something. Not necessarily the works by Giotto and Masaccio and other artists of that period, thirteenth, fourteenth century, but other people. Because he went to Siena, he went to Prato. You know, he traveled all over the place. So there are wonderful frescoes by Lippi, you know, in Prato, and all these places have to be seen. And some of them have been destroyed.

CUNO:  Normally, to help you in this process, you would have found a particular source for it. You could say, ah, this drawing is after [Stock: Yes] this particular painting. Or you’d find a painting by Michelangelo or a sculpture by Michelangelo, for which the drawing would be a study. But you found neither of those.

STOCK:  No, I didn’t. And in fact, Paul Joannides, who is a very eminent professor of Michelangelo, as well as Raphael, Cambridge University, was a friend. And he came to stay in a flat that I had rented when I was living in Florence. And I had a photograph of the drawing. And he looked at the photograph. And he looked at it and he said, “Oh. What— This is fantastic. This is Michelangelo.” I said, “Yes, it is.” “Yes. Oh. It’s a—” You know, he was very excited.

So he said, “Could I have an image of it?” I said, “Paul, you’re not allowed to reproduce it.” So I gave him an image of it, and I put a big line— a cross through it. I said, “You’re absolutely not allowed to publish it.” And not long afterwards, Paul discovered in the Louvre, a sixteenth century drawing after this drawing. And as you know, it’s cut along the bottom. And it’s exactly the same. So this is a drawing that he— We disagree on the attribution. But it’s got to be a drawing of around about 1530, this other copy—

CUNO:  [over Stock] Copy of the Michelangelo drawing.

STOCK:  Of this— of this very drawing.

CUNO:  Yeah. So here’s the draw—

STOCK:  And cut.

CUNO:  So here’s the drawing by the— It’s later in the sixteenth century. Or is it seventeenth [inaudible]?

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yeah, much later, yes.

CUNO:  Someone has seen it. Someone is drawing after.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] ’Cause this is 1490. I— Yeah. I think this could be, you know, 1485, ’86. If everybody accepts the Kimbell Museum Torment of Saint Anthony painting, which supposedly Michelangelo painted when he was in Ghirlandaio’s studio, at the age of twelve, which is a pretty good picture— But I mean, how you can be certain whether it really is the Michelangelo that is recorded, because apparently, there was another version of that painting known at one time.

But if it is, it means that we have about two to three years of no work by Michelangelo. We don’t have anything by him. Because everybody’s saying that this drawing— the earliest this drawing gets given is usually, you know, in the nineties.

So if this picture is accepted, then there’s a— there’s a lot of time there; there’re a few years. And Michelangelo, we know— I mean, it’s— He never stopped drawing, he never stopped looking. He traveled everywhere.

CUNO:  Yeah.

STOCK:  For example, he goes from Florence to Bologna, works in Bologna. We know that. Then he goes from Bologna to Venice. But we have nothing of this Venetian sojourn. We don’t know what he did or anything. But Padua is on the way. So there’s no way he wouldn’t have stopped at Padua.

CUNO:  Well, since we don’t know this drawing is related to a particular painting [Stock: No] or sculpture or something. What would be the purpose of the drawing? And tell us about the process by which Michelangelo undertook drawings in his youthful period.

STOCK:  Well, in a way, the copying— At that time and later, in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century, copying works by earlier masters in the antique was part of your education. So you did it because of your passion and your love and excitement of looking at paintings by Giotto and looking at Donatello, looking at everything around you and taking notes.

There were no cameras then, there were no— after all, were there, you know. So people drew. So that’s why I think he made— he made copies of all these figures in the frescoes, because he wanted to absorb them.

CUNO:  Did he carry with him sheets of paper and pen and ink and [inaudible]?

STOCK:  I think he did. Well—

CUNO:  And then how did— how did— If he’s traveling so far, how does he then make the drawing, or what does he keep it in, [Stock: Yes] and how does he bring it back to Florence?

STOCK:  Well, you know, that’s a good question. Michelangelo, when he was in Florence, of course, would just go to the chapel and make a copy. [Cuno: Yeah. Yeah] And sit there, I guess, and make the copy. So—

CUNO:  How many drawings by Michelangelo do we know?

STOCK:  That’s— that was sort of— Well, there may be four—

CUNO:  Hundreds?

STOCK:  No, it’s sort of 400 or so, I think.

CUNO:  Yeah?

STOCK:  490.

CUNO:  Yeah. So it’s clearly a fraction of the great many number he made, yeah?

STOCK:  Absolutly— Yes. He destroyed thousands of drawings.

CUNO:  Yeah. Was he consistent in the materials he used in a particular period. In other words, if you look at these— this drawing, you’d say that’s an early drawing because only in the early drawings, did he use this particular kind of materials?

STOCK:  Yeah. Not necessarily the material, but the way he drew. This drawing, similar to other drawings of this early period by Michelangelo, have very, very refined, fine crosshatching, in two colored inks, brown inks. One is lighter than the other one. And they’re very precise. You could almost say that they are like a computer drawing.

So that hatching, that we call it, which is lines going from right to left, and then lines going from left to right, and lines going, you know, horizontally or diagonally, is the way that this is drawn. Then he became freer. You know, he became more serpentine and the figures were moving, by 1503, 1505.

At twenty-one, for example, when he was twenty-one, he goes to Rome with a letter of introduction to Cardinal Riario. And now, when an artist like Michelangelo, who was looking for work, go— looking for commissions, he would certainly have taken some drawings with him. And that’s why I think this drawing and the one that I compared it with, the British Museum drawing of the standing philosopher or academic or doctor, I think he took both of them to Rome.

One, because we have— there’s, in the Farnese Hours, that beautiful small book in the— in the— done for Cardinal Farnese by Giulio Clovio of 1530, that sort of date, you have and. And this figure, in reverse, where Giulio Clovio is copying this— he must be copying, almost certainly, this image.

CUNO:  If it’s in reverse, would it have been traced, as opposed to drawn?

STOCK:  No, well, I think he would’ve just—

CUNO:  [over Stock] Why would you draw it in reverse, do you think?

STOCK:  Well, because this figure— When I first saw it, I thought it must be for a Christ on the cross. But it’s not for a Christ on the cross, because you normally have Christ on the cross; you have on the right, Saint John the Baptist; and on the left you have the Virgin. Well, you couldn’t possibly have this on the left. And I checked again. I went through hundreds and hundreds of images of Christ on the cross, because I wanted to be absolutely certain that I wasn’t making a fool of myself.

It’s very easy to make a fool of oneself. [Cuno: Yeah] And what’s fascinating about the British Museum drawing is that on the back of the British Museum drawing— Because paper then was considered an expensive commodity and you took great care; you used every square inch. And on the back of the British Museum drawing, there is a black chalk head for the Sistine ceiling. So that means that that drawing must been part of the portfolio that Michelangelo took when he was twenty-one, to Rome to show people, this is how good I am. You know, I’ll show you. I’ll carve you a figure. And give me a piece of marble and I’ll do something in the next sort of couple of weeks. You’ll be shocked.

CUNO:  Yeah. Were his drawings valued in his lifetime by collectors?

STOCK:  Yes, very much so.

CUNO:  So there are very early collections of his drawings?

STOCK:  Yes. Well—

CUNO:  Of distinction?

STOCK:  Pietro Aretino, that blackguard, you know, was— would write to him and say, you know, “If you— if you don’t send me a drawing, I’m gonna say horrible things about you and say that you’re a rotten…” you know. Yes, a little bit of blackmail there.

CUNO:  [over Stock] Aretino actually wrote a life of Michelangelo, we think [inaudible].

STOCK:  No, Aretino didn’t, but the people that did—Condivi, and Vasari, of course, [Cuno: Yeah] writes a lot about him.

CUNO:  So he had some threatening power over an artist who wanted to be recognized [inaudible] at all.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Exactly. But Michelangelo was— he was very— he was very protective of his work. After all, we mustn’t forget that that naughty Raphael—nobody really criticizes Raphael for it—but Raphael bribed his way into the Sistine ceiling because Michelangelo had given the strictest instructions, “No one is to see my unfinished frescoes in the Sistine ceiling. They should just get— They’re not allowed in.” Raphael gets in. He bribes him. Well, you know, that’s a bit naughty isn’t it?

CUNO:  Was there a time, any time, when Michelangelo’s drawings weren’t collected or they weren’t valued as the intimate markings of a genius?

STOCK:  No, they— I think they were— they would always have been collected. Yeah, they would always be wanted.

CUNO:  And valued.

STOCK:  Ah, highly, yes.

CUNO:  Highly, by others. And he let them go? Or how did they get out his studio?

STOCK:  No. Well, some of them were stolen. There are drawings that were stolen from him. And some of them, like now the Getty drawing, I think he probably gave to the— somebody like, say, the banker. There was a banker called Gallee[sp?]. And Gallee you know, commissioned him to do things. And it would be quite understandable for Gallee, who had a collection of wonderful antique sculpture, he would’ve had other things.

And he would’ve had, probably, drawings. And he invited artists like Giulio Clovio— This is my fantasy, by the way. You know, Giulio Clovio, they would’ve been in discussion. So people would’ve seen this drawing. Other artists like Salviati  must’ve seen this drawing in somebody like Gallee’s collection. And then they would’ve said, ah, this is by Michelangelo and it’s fantastic. And you know, let’s make a copy of it.

CUNO:  Is it likely—now getting back to the provenance of the drawing—is it likely that it would’ve gotten to Richardson without others knowing it? There wouldn’t be textual evidence of someone remarking upon the [inaudible]?

STOCK:  [over Cuno]  I suppose it is, although I find it— You know, I find it very hard to believe. That’s why it’s so strange that here I am, Castle Howard, doing a revaluation, opening a book, finding this drawing pasted into the scrapbook, with nothing. No sign of Michelangelo on it at all.

CUNO:  And so let me get back, then, to the— how you get confirmation this is by Michelangelo. So you’ve shown it now. We’ve talked about [Stock: Right] the finding of it in the Castle Howard; we’ve talked about the role of drawing in the work of Michelangelo; we’ve talked about the people then with whom you’ve shown the drawing, that there are four or five others that might similarly [Stock: Yes] of the same period, and therefore, related in time, if nothing else, to this drawing. How did it— how did you get it published? In what form was it published?

STOCK:  Well, actually, there was an amusing story. I used to be chairman of the paper conservators. And I’d given it up. But they kept sending me their— you know, what’s going on. And I had it at home, at one time, when I was writing my short article on it. And I had it in, rather like here, in the— in the— The sunlight was shining over my shoulder, and it was shining on the drawing. And I saw that there was pulp in the paper, in this drawing’s paper.

And I thought, hey, when you have pulp in the paper, it usually means that it’s blue paper. And blue paper is Venetian. And as far as I remember, I’m thinking— You know, I was thinking sort of immediately, you know, I’ve seen these. Rather like the bits, you know, in your freshly pressed orange. Those bits that, you know, children don’t like, but we like. And they’re in the paper.

And I thought, oh, God, you know, this could be on blue paper. And as far as I know, Michelangelo never— There’s no drawing on blue paper. Negative. You know, somebody will say, “Ah, but it’s on blue paper. It can’t possibly be by Michelangelo.”

CUNO:  And we should, for the podcast listeners, point out that there’s no evident blue tint to the color of the paper now.

STOCK:  Of the— now, no. Well, there is actually, under certain light. But it fades, of course.

CUNO:  Very quickly, blue fades, yeah, yeah.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] The paper can fade, yes. So when this paper conference came, I said to Castle Howard, “I’ve got to take the drawing over to the paper conference. And I’ll join a group where we’re looking at blue paper.” So there was, in fact, a group of scholars, paper conservators, working on blue paper. So I take it to Toronto, show it to— we examine— everybody examines it and thinks about it and said, “I think this is Michelangelo, but it’s on blue paper. And as far as I know, Michelangelo never used blue paper. You know, can you confirm or deny that— Is it or isn’t it?” They couldn’t find out. So I come back to London with nothing. So then—

CUNO:  You— Sorry, so you didn’t— you weren’t able to confirm that it was blue paper.

STOCK:  No. No, no. What— But then what Peter Bower, who is a paper historian, said, “Bring it to the Victoria & Albert Museum conservation department, and we’ll look at it again there, and we’ll just lift a corner of the drawing to see. And hey presto, this drawing is laid down on a piece of blue paper. So it’s not on blue paper; it’s laid down on blue paper.

So again, the doubting Thomases, “Oh, it’s on blue paper. Oh, it’s not by Michelangelo.” “Uh-uh. Hold on a moment, it’s not.” You know. So I was ready to shoot them down.

CUNO:  Yeah. I thought you were gonna say that when they lifted up the corner of the paper, you would’ve found that the underside of the paper, the paper that didn’t— wasn’t exposed to— the side of the paper that wasn’t exposed to light was blue.

STOCK:  No. No, it was— it’s actually laid— The drawing is on [inaudible] paper, as it is now. And it’s— underneath, it’s blue.

CUNO:  Uh-huh. So you’re— you’ve— you’re trying to prove a negative here. You’ve proven [Stock: Yeah] that it wasn’t on blue paper, so that’s good.

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Exact— So that’s good. So—

CUNO:  What’s the next step?

STOCK:  So then I was free. Then I thought, I think I’ve done all my homework properly. I don’t think anybody can shoot me down. So I wanted to publish it with a very good reproduction. And there used to be this marvelous magazine produced in Italy, called FMR, Franco Maria Ricci. And he did won— he does wonderful reproductions.

And I thought, I’m not going to go to the Burlington Old Master drawings because, you know, they  just won’t give me— I want the very best reproduction, so that when people judge it, they’re going to judge it correctly. So we went to a lot of trouble and they did a marvelous job. And hey presto, it was published. And I even had— There’s one German scholar called Alexander Perig[sp?].

And Professor Perig is very negative about a lot of drawings by Michelangelo, saying they’re by Benvenuto Cellini and other artists. And he wrote me a letter saying, “What a wonderful early drawing, and congratulations. It’s a great discovery.” So even the doubting Thomas Perig himself said yes.

CUNO:  Yeah. So there was general acclaim. Maybe some outliers, but general acclaim about the drawing. How quickly from that moment of published evidence that this was a Michelangelo drawing to the sale of the drawing, how much time took place?

STOCK:  There were too— Actually, it was too short a time, in my opinion. Because when something new like this comes on, is discovered, there are always people that are a little hesitant about— You know, they want to hold back. They like something that has got a long provenance and are we really certain? Is anybody going to change their mind?

And unfortunately, at that time, the Howard— Simon Howard, who was in charge of the house, was getting a divorce from his wife and— Well, you know the story afterwards. So this was one of the items that had to be put on the market. So I was very sad, in fact, that it had to be sold. So— But anyway, it was sold.

CUNO:  [over Stock] Was that a year later, from publication?

STOCK:  [over Cuno] That was about— Yeah, about one or two years afterwards, yes.

CUNO:  [over Stock] Yeah, yeah. And was there great— obviously, great interest in the drawing, because…

STOCK:  There was.

CUNO:  …it was proven to be a Michelangelo drawing. Was there— and we know that there are— the British government can put a stop of the export of some drawing as important as this. Why was there not? Or was there a stop put on it and—?

STOCK:  No. They didn’t put a stop, but partly because the British Museum do have—

CUNO:  So many?

STOCK:  Well, one, there are so many Michelangelo drawings in Britain. So you know, we mustn’t be too greedy. And two, we have that one very fine drawing, which I compare this— the Getty drawing to now, with— You know, the two go hand-in-hand. In fact, I would’ve liked this drawing to have been bought by the Italian government and given to Casa Buonarroti or the Uffizi, because Italy doesn’t have a drawing of this type.

CUNO:  Of an early drawing like this.

STOCK:  No, they don’t have an early drawing.

CUNO:  [over Stock] Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So where was it sold?

STOCK:  It was sold at Sotheby’s in London. And it went very well. And—

CUNO:  Was there great excitement about it?

STOCK:  Yeah, there was, yes.

CUNO:  Yeah? In the room itself?

STOCK:  In the room, yes. But you know, everybody normally sits on their hands before— They don’t want to be seen bidding, you know, so they’re all waiting. And in fact, this— your— the collector—

STOCK:  I mean, it’s— The anonymous collector, who you’ve just bought this wonderful group of drawings from, bought the drawing in the sale.

CUNO:  Yeah. Was the drawing shown publicly? [Stock: Yes] At the sale, it was, certainly; but after the sale, was it immediately into exhibitions? And was it— [Stock: Yeah] has it been— an exhibition history that’s prominent?

STOCK:  It went to—Because before it was going to be auctioned, I was trying to get somewhere in Florence to exhibit it. But that fell through, because whatever. I can’t remember why it fell through, but anyway, it fell through. And I don’t think it did go on any traveling exhibition anywhere, no. I don’t think— It didn’t go to Japan, didn’t go to— didn’t come here.

CUNO:  Yeah.

STOCK:  So I think it just stayed in London for people to see.

CUNO:  So the only time that it’s been shown publicly, you think, is in the recent Met exhibition of Michelangelo drawings?

STOCK:  [over Cuno] Yeah, and the Vienna one. About two years ago, there was a Vienna exhibition.

CUNO:  Yeah. Well, it’s fantastic that you found this drawing, it’s fantastic that it’s here in the Getty, and that you came to talk about the drawing. So we thank you for all of that. And thank you for this time on the podcast this morning.

STOCK:  Well, it’s pleasure, been a pleasure.

CUNO: Our theme music comes from “The Dharma at Big Sur,” composed by John Adams for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003. It is licensed with permission from Hendon Music. Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music. For photos, transcripts, and other resources, visit Thanks for listening.


JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art & Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.

JULIEN STOCK:  I open the book and I start going through. And sort of over halfway through, I c...

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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