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“You have all these incredibly powerful people across Italy, all writing to Michelangelo and saying, ‘Please, please, pretty please, can I have one of your drawings?’ And, you know, Michelangelo never obliged them.”

Michelangelo is among the most influential and impressive artists of the Italian High Renaissance. His lifelike sculptures and powerful paintings are some of the most recognizable works in Western art history. He also drew prolifically, making sketch after sketch of figures in slightly varying poses, focusing on form and gesture. However, remarkably few of these drawings remain today, many of them burned by the artist himself, others lost or damaged over the centuries.

A recent exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, brought together more than two dozen of Michelangelo’s surviving drawings—including designs for the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment—to shed light on the artist’s creativity and working method. In this episode, co-curators of this exhibition, Julian Brooks and Edina Adam, discuss the master and what we can learn from his works on paper.

Figure of a woman in mourning wearing a full-length robe and arms wrapped around herself, concealing half of her face.

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. Digital image courtesy of Getty’s Open Content Program.

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Michelangelo: Mind of the Master


JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
JULIAN BROOKS: You have all these incredibly powerful people across Italy, all writing to Michelangelo and saying, “Please, please, pretty please, can I have one of your drawings?” And, you know, Michelangelo never obliged them.
CUNO: In this episode, I speak with curators Julian Brooks and Edina Adam about their recent exhibition Michelangelo: Mind of the Master.
Michelangelo was born in Florence in 1475. A sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and draftsman, he was a prodigious talent, sculpting the Pietà and David before the age of thirty and named architect of St. Peter’s Basilica at the age of 74.
The exhibition Michelangelo: Mind of the Master comprises more than 24 drawings by the hand of the artist, revealing the power and passion of his working method. He drew over and over again in red chalk and brown ink, focusing his attention on the musculature of the human body in motion, working ceaselessly to get right the gestures and forms. These drawings were the foundation of his monumental compositions and the means by which he thought through and worked out his greatest works of art.
While the exhibition was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a chance to speak with the exhibition’s curators, Julian Brooks and Edina Adam.
The exhibition in Los Angeles was made possible with major funding from Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, supported by an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden, and sponsored by our generous partners at City National Bank.
In his own time, Michelangelo was called the divine one, marvel of our century, wonder of nature, and the angel elect. And the poet Pietro Aretino once said of him, “The world has many kings, but only one Michelangelo.” Here to talk with me about this master are Edina Adam and Julian Brooks curators of the exhibition that prompted this podcast episode, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, co organized by the Getty Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Thank you, Edina and Julian, for joining me. It’s always good to speak with you.
And before we get to the content of the exhibition, let’s talk about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on it. The exhibition opened shortly before the museum was forced to close because of the pandemic. How long was the exhibition seen by the public here at the Getty?
BROOKS: So it was open for about three weeks. You know, we were very lucky that we managed to get an opening and press previews and everything like that, and three weeks of public viewing, before we had to shut down.
CUNO: Well, what was it like, given all the time that you spent in preparing the exhibition, the two of you, to have it close down soon after it opened?
BROOKS: It’s sort of heart-wrenching, I must say. I mean, you spend so much time anticipating the opening and, you know, working on the catalog and making sure everything is perfect. And it’s such a sort of exciting moment. And you get into a routine where it’s just every day you’re in the galleries, and it’s wonderful. And then suddenly it’s sort of cut short, and gone, essentially.
CUNO: Yeah. Just before it closed down, I was told that you rushed into the darkened galleries and recorded these brief, insightful, poignant, and personal responses to the drawings. Tell us about that experience, what prompted it, and how it felt to make those brief recordings.
BROOKS: Yeah, it was Monday the 16th of March. And we were told that that would be our last day in the building. And we didn’t know how long we were going to be closed for. The realization suddenly hit me that afternoon that, I didn’t know when I was gonna see the exhibition again. And so I called up and made sure that the lights were on, and then just emailed a couple of people and said, “Look, you know, I’m gonna go up and have a last look at the show, but if you wanna record something, come. You know, let’s do it now.” And thankfully, a member of our digital team came up. Christopher Sprinkle came up, and we recorded these videos, just on my iPhone. And frankly, at the time, I thought it would be opening again in a couple of weeks’ time or so. Who knew that it would be months and months before we could actually go back in?
CUNO: Do you think it made you see the drawings differently?
BROOKS: There was a sort of poignancy, certainly. You know, drawings arc so fragile as works of art. And so there was a sense for me of sort of, “Well, you know, when am I gonna see these again?” And they’ve become sort of friends, too. Like, you know, we were seeing them every day. And suddenly it’s like sort of being told you can’t see a friend for several months or something which we’ve all experienced now with the lockdown.
CUNO: And now you’re talking to us on this podcast, so thank you for that. Edina, give us a sense of Michelangelo’s background, how and with whom he was trained.
EDINA ADAM: Michelangelo was extremely conscious of his image as an artist, and took an active role in shaping his own myth as this divinely inspired genius. For this reason, he denied in his biography, which was written by his friend Ascanio Condivi and published in 1553, that he ever received formal training. But thanks to the sixteenth century Tuscan painter and writer Giorgio Vasari, we now know that he, in fact, apprenticed in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
In Domenico’s workshop, the young Michelangelo learned to prepare artist materials, master the techniques of fresco painting and of egg tempera painting, improved his dexterity, and most importantly, he absorbed Ghirlandaio’s systematic use of drawings in the development and the execution of a project. He learned to develop a composition through a progressive sequence of exploratory sketches, rough compositional drawings, and studies, and then transfer the finished design to another support with the help of a cartoon.
CUNO: Explain that a little bit for our listeners who wouldn’t know what you mean by transfer and about a cartoon.
ADAM: So, cartoons are to-size drawings. With the help of cartoons, the finished design can be transferred onto another support, either by incising the outlines—
CUNO: Tracing the outlines and making an impression on the wall.
ADAM: Or by pricking and then pouncing. That means pricking the outlines of the design with a needle and then using powdered black chalk to transfer the design.
CUNO: And when that transfer took place, would the drawing be then removed from the wall? And then would the artist go back in, and strengthen the outline of the drawing directly on the wall?
ADAM: Yes, he would have connected the dots, basically, and reinforced the outlines.
CUNO: And drawing is especially identified with Renaissance Florence. And you already mentioned Vasari, and Vasari was promoting the importance of drawing. But a century before, the theorist Leon Battista Alberti argued that drawing was crucial to a new mode of narrative painting, making clear the narrative structure and figurative nobility of complex subject matter. Tell us about the role of drawing in Florentine painting and how it differed from that in Venetian painting.
ADAM: By the late fifteenth century, drawing came to play a central role in artistic training and in artistic production. Not only in Florence, but across Italy, apprentices would have diligently copied two- and three-dimensional models, while artists would have used drawings to explore ideas, to develop compositions, to delegate work within their workshops, and also to communicate ideas to their commissioners.
CUNO: At the time, did an artist become identified with a particular quality of work? Let’s say in drawing after the figure or drawing draperies, the way Leonardo drew such fantastic draperies. Did they specialize in that quality of drawing?
ADAM: Michelangelo, for instance, was known for his figure studies, for his nude figure studies. And during this period, I think the notion developed that one has a specific drawing style and one can be recognized based on that.
CUNO: I gather there’s some 600 Michelangelo drawings that have survived. Julian, how are they distributed over his lifetime? How did his draftsmanship develop over that time? Did he draw more at one time in his career than another, or did he draw consistently throughout his career?
BROOKS: I mean, that’s very difficult, because we don’t have a complete picture of Michelangelo’s draftsmanship, inasmuch as we don’t have a lot of his drawings.
You know, it’s been estimated that if he drew just one sheet a day for every day of his working life, there would be about 28,000 drawings. And as you say, there are about 600 now. There are definitely gaps.
CUNO: Meaning gaps in time?
BROOKS: Yeah, these tend to appear at particularly the beginning and the end of the career. It was very common for drawings not to survive from the very earliest part of a career, of the artist’s career, when they’re training, and Michelangelo was very keen to sort of conceal his time in the Domenico Ghirlandaio’ s studio. And so perhaps he even sort of effaced some of his drawings or destroyed them. But there are very few drawings from the early part of his career.
And then after about 1534, when he moves permanently to Rome, there are many fewer drawings than there are from the intervening period. Perhaps because he’s in Rome, he’s mainly working for the popes, so he’s on the spot; he can talk them through things, show them things, et cetera. Whereas when he’s communicating from Florence, he’s sending drawings back and forth.
CUNO: Now, I know that you can identify early from late drawings, because you understand the development of the hand of the artist over the course of his career. But our listeners might be interested in hearing more about that. How did he develop over the course of his career in his draftsmanship?
BROOKS: Yeah, it’s tricky to put one’s finger on it. I mean, he’s an artist who drew all the time, and drawing was absolutely central for everything he did. I think there’s a sense that at the beginning of his career and when he’s working on the Sistine Chapel, he’s doing many more sort of life studies. Perhaps as he goes on and he comes to be working on The Last Judgment and is further commissioned there are fewer figure studies. Architectural drawings he’d get all the way through.
His media changed somewhat, too, because in the beginning, you know, Domenico Ghirlandaio drew a great deal with pen and ink. And Michelangelo really learned that from him. So, he’s drawing, using the pen to make hatched strokes and crosshatched strokes. That’s parallel strokes of the pen, but that shade in a figure and create form. And so, he’s using the pen a great deal in the beginning.
CUNO: Well, if a drawing is preliminary to a painting, why does it matter what instrument one uses to draw?
BROOKS: As a drawings specialist, it’s one of the questions that sort of plagues us really, I think all the time, is why does a certain artist choose particular media? And sometimes that’s sort of clear.
And you know, we know at the beginning of his career, he’s using pen and ink, but then he moves more to red chalk. I think because it’s sort of convenient instead of getting a quill, sharpening it, dipping it ink, carrying around a pot of ink and a quill, et cetera, et cetera, he’s just using red chalk. And he finds he can model the figure particularly well using red chalk.
I think he also— he realizes that it’s actually much quicker. You know, you could convey the elements of figure by smudging and working with the tone of the red chalk, instead of doing endless parallel hatching with the pen as he would’ve been doing back in Ghirlandaio’s studio.
CUNO: But he would come back to the pen and ink later?
BROOKS: He actually then moved on to black chalk. So, you get many more black chalk drawings later in his career.
The ones that survive from The Last Judgment, in the Sistine Chapel, and also numerous architectural drawings, he uses black chalk. He uses pen and ink later in his career mainly for architectural studies and not so much for figure studies. And his drawing style becomes— in many ways, it becomes sort of briefer. He can convey information so effectively using a sharpened bit of black chalk, even on a very small scale sometimes with figural groups of his drawing.
But towards the end of his career, he does these amazing sheets of crucifixion with two figures in black chalk. And the figures are sort of weighty. They’re not sculptural in the way that his earlier drawings are, where you really feel the roundness of the figure. But they’re just incredibly solid, these figures, with a very low center of gravity. They always feel to me like they’re figures that are walking through molasses or something. They’re very sort of slow and slightly sort of clumsy, in a way. And yet incredibly atmospheric.
CUNO: Yeah. Edina, could you tell me if Michelangelo ever went back over his earlier drawings? Did he ever rework them and use them for different purposes, for example?
ADAM: Yes. In fact, it was Michelangelo’s practice to reuse sheets. In the exhibition, we have a number of examples that contain drawings related to different projects. There is a large sheet from the Teylers Museum, for instance, that features a black chalk study of a striding male nude on its recto.
And the verso, the very same sheet, shows a study of a muscular male torso and a bent leg, a bent left leg, and separate studies of the same leg shown from different angles. Michelangelo made the drawing on the recto in preparation for his Battle of Cascina composition around 1504, 1506, while the torso is related to a marble sculpture entitled The Genius of Victory, which he carved in the late 1520s.
CUNO: And we should let people know that the verso and the recto are opposite sides of a sheet of paper.
ADAM: Yes. It’s rather arbitrary which one we call recto and verso. Usually, the recto is the one that has the more important drawing, if it’s a double-sided sheet.
One might wonder why Michelangelo reused the sheets in such a manner. Drawings played a very specific utilitarian role in his artistic practice. He used them to explore ideas and to solve problems. In the case of the Cascina drawing, for instance, while some parts of the body are worked up to an extremely high degree, others, such as the left leg, are indicated with only a few lines. Michelangelo did this because he knew that certain areas would be covered by other figures. So you know, why bother?
This, his very practical approach to drawing might be one of the reasons why he didn’t mind using and reusing the same sheet. In some instances, however, he returned to the sheet to use an already existing drawing as a source of inspiration, as a starting point. One of my favorite drawings by Michelangelo is in the Royal Collection in Windsor. On one side of the sheet, Michelangelo drew the punishment of the Greek mythological giant called Tityus, a large muscular body is tied to a rock, while a vulture is feeding on his liver.
Michelangelo then turned the sheet over and traced the figure on the other side, and transformed it into a resurrected Christ emerging from the tomb. I think this is an absolutely fascinating example of Michelangelo reusing a sheet.
CUNO: There’s another peculiar instance of this, I think, where someone cut out a hand, a drawn hand, from one of Michelangelo’s drawings, and as I understood it, glued it onto another drawing by the artist. How do we know that wasn’t Michelangelo who did that? And tell us why someone would have done that.
ADAM: This manipulation of sheets that you’re referring to was done by someone before the drawings entered the Teylers Museum in 1790. This person cropped the hand of God from one sheet and pasted it onto another one that features studies of Haman, a character from the Old Testament, who appears in a pendentive adjacent to the altar wall in the Sistine Chapel.
Presumably, the same person took a blade to the study of Haman, as well. He took a blade to the study of Haman’s outstretched arm and glued it back on the sheet in an orientation that aligns with the study of Haman’s torso.
CUNO: Do we know that it wasn’t Michelangelo who did it?
ADAM: I don’t see what purpose it would have served. Even within the group of Sistine Chapel drawings, there are a number of sheets that contain drawings for different figures on the same sheet.
CUNO: Like fragments of the figures of that would be— wherever there was space on the paper, he found a way to fill that space with a drawing?
ADAM: Yes, basically. And I think, again, it has to do with him thinking about drawings in very practical terms.
BROOKS: And I’ll just jump in, Jim. That in terms of knowing that it wasn’t Michelangelo who did this, in a few of the cases where the sheet has been cut up, it has been done after a late sixteenth century inscription has been added. A lot of these drawings have an inscription that was put on, we think, about 1580, 1600, that says “Michelangelo Buonarroti.” And some of the cutting up happened after that was put on. So we know it’s sort of between that date and 1790, when the Teylers Museum bought the drawings.
CUNO: Mm-hm. How do we know how he kept his drawings in the studio? In other words, he kept them as resource material, it seems to me. How do we know how he kept them that way and that he was so protective of his drawings that, I was told, that he even instructed his assistants and family members not to let other people see them.
BROOKS: Yeah. To be honest, he was very haphazard in the drawings that he kept and didn’t keep. Which in some ways, was absolutely in contrast to other artists of the period. For most artists, their drawings were their sort of resource. And they would not only use them as jumping off points for inspiration, but they would literally reuse the same figures, the same drawings again and again. That was a part of the studios’ apparatus. And Michelangelo doesn’t do that.
And you get examples where he draws on a sheet, keeps it for twenty years, and then uses it for making a shopping list. There are some drawings that he just destroyed very quickly. He was incredibly protective of his drawings. We have to remember for him, his drawings were really his sort of intellectual property, basically, his designs. And he very quickly became famous in Florence. By the time the David was unveiled in 1501, he was incredibly well known.
And a lot of artists sort of wanted to see what he’s working on, how he solved problems. And he was sort of paranoid, maybe, personality-wise, so he didn’t want people to see what he was doing. When he’s in Rome we have this wonderful correspondence from Michelangelo, because he’s always writing back to his family in Florence. And we have like 500 letters from Michelangelo. And they’re just peppered throughout with all these pleas to, like, not let artists, not let anyone into the house or the studio to look at things. You know, he even sort of walled up some sculptures, to make sure that people couldn’t get to them. And he wrote, you know, numerous times to his family, saying, “Don’t let anyone see these sketches.”
CUNO: He must have had younger artists working with him in the studio, who would’ve had access to these drawings. And that’s one of the reasons he was nervous about them, I guess, although it doesn’t make much sense why a master would be so nervous about a young artist copying a drawing of his.
BROOKS: No, it’s sort of curious. Compared to many other artists, he didn’t really have a studio as such. I mean he had people around him who would do some of the basic preparatory work, particularly when he’s in Rome working on these big fresco projects. But otherwise he was, in many ways, sort of solitary. And I think it’s partly because of his paranoia of people stealing his ideas.
At a certain point, he takes on sort of young noblemen and teaches them how to draw. But that’s a very sort of different thing from giving access to your studio. And you know, he was very, very conscious of not letting people see what he’s doing. There’s an account Vasari talks about in- probably in the late 1520s, that the sculptor Bartolommeo Ammannati and a friend actually broke into Michelangelo’s house in Florence and took fifty drawings and four sculptural maquettes and sort of studied them and then returned them. And Vasari sort of glosses over it and said, “Oh, you know, it was done out of admiration.” But I think that gives you a sense of how sort of desperate other artists were to see what he was doing.
CUNO: Was there a market for his drawings? I mean, were people wanting to buy his drawings? Tell us about the note that the Marquess of Mantua wrote to his agent requesting a drawing by the master’s hand.
BROOKS: Yeah, I mean, it’s one of those extraordinary things because there was no drawings market as such. Drawings were basically owned by the artist. They were used as studio property. They had that sort of value. But people in general, at that period, weren’t, like, collecting drawings as they might do now. And yet, you know, Michelangelo was very much tied up with the Medici family and with the popes, in terms of his patronage and who he’s working for. And everything he did, basically, had to be for them.
So, it meant there wasn’t really access to his work otherwise. So, you have all these incredibly powerful people across Italy—you know, the Marquess of Mantua, Isabella D’Este, Pietro Aretino—all writing to Michelangelo, often directly, and saying, “Please, please, pretty please, can I have one of your drawings?” And you know, Michelangelo never obliged them. Which is extraordinary, you know, to defy all these sort of people.
And I think he’s sort of aware of the power that this sort of gave him, that everyone wanted something, even just a drawing, which was then seen to be a sort of scrap.
CUNO: And for their purposes, it was a sign of the genius of the man, of Michelangelo, that you had something? It wasn’t just because it was a beautiful drawing or an attractive drawing, but it was a sense of the genius of the man that you held in your hand.
BROOKS: Totally. It was something, as you say, it was something by his hand. They wanted a piece of him, something by the famous Michelangelo. And the Marquess of Mantua, when he writes, you know, he’s building the Palazzo Te in Mantua, this very grand palace, quirky palace.
And he writes to his agent in Florence saying, “Please procure a painting, a sculpture by Michelangelo, or if you can’t do that, even a drawing would suffice and would quench our thirst in the meantime.” And he gets nothing. Nothing at all.
CUNO: I gather he was convinced that other artists, at one time or another, were trying to steal his ideas, as you mentioned earlier. And Michelangelo went to the extent of actually destroying many of his own drawings.
BROOKS: He did. I mean, it’s one of the most— For me, it’s such a puzzling thing to do. I mean, the more I learn about Michelangelo, the more I try and understand his actions. But we do, we know that he destroyed a lot of drawings.
And we can only guess at the scale of that destruction. He may have made up to 28,000 drawings in his life, if he drew a single sheet every day. And he drew all the time. And you know, we only have 600 now. But in February 1518, he writes from Florence to his assistant in Rome, Leonardo Sellaio. Because he’s already been working on the Sistine ceiling, the Sistine Chapel. He had a studio there full of drawings. And he writes to Leonardo Sellaio saying, “Please, please destroy all the drawings that are in the house there.”
And Sellaio writes back and says, “Regretfully, you know, I have done as you asked.” And this happens all through his life. And Pietro Aretino writes to him a number of times saying, “Please, can I have one of the drawings that you normally give to the flames?” And towards the end of his life, Vasari talks about how he burned piles of drawings. And indeed, when Michelangelo dies in 1564, there are basically ten drawings in his house, and that’s it. Which, for an artist as productive as Michelangelo, was sort of extraordinary.
CUNO: And that’s why it’s so rare for a Michelangelo to come on the market today? Because there’s so few of them available, I suppose.
BROOKS: Yeah. And they seem to have stayed very much in groups. So, you know, most of the drawings that are in existence, essentially, were in the Buonarotti family archive and studio in Florence and basically came from there. Some came from a sort of erstwhile pupil of his called Antonio Mini, who took a group of drawings to France. And there are a few other sort of groups, but they tended to remain as groups.
CUNO: Well, the Getty, happily, got one such drawing not long ago. Tell us about that story.
BROOKS: Yeah, it’s an amazing story. A sort of dream for anyone who studies this work. So in about 1995, a Sotheby specialist, Julian Stock, went up to Castle Howard in North Yorkshire in England, doing a routine appraisal. And he was just going through the house, and then when he’s in the library, he pulled this book off the shelf, and it was a volume of basically family watercolors, sort of older sketches, little scraps and things that people had stuck in. Probably in the nineteenth century, they’d put this album together.
And he turned the page, and there was this drawing, a drawing by Michelangelo, a study in pen and ink of a mourning woman. Subsequently, there was a lot of study of this, and we know that it was a drawing that was actually well known in Michelangelo’s time. But it was subsequently sold from Castle Howard in 2001, bought by a private collector. And the Getty then bought a number of works from his collection in 2017. So, it’s just so exciting to have that drawing now in the Getty collection, and to make it available to our visitors.
CUNO: Yeah. Let’s bring Edina back into the conversation, because you mentioned, Julian, that the idea that Michelangelo’s drawings tended to be collected in groups over the time. And Edina, tell us about this particular collection, the Teylers Museum collection, how it was formed and what’s the history of the drawings?
ADAM: The Teylers Museum in Haarlem is a fascinating institution. It was established in the late eighteenth century, with funding provided by Pieter Teyler, a wealthy banker and textile manufacturer. In accordance with the values of the Enlightenment, the museum was to promote the arts, advance the sciences, and encourage research. The twenty-four sheets by Michelangelo, along with another 1700 Italian drawings, were acquired for the museum in 1790, in Italy. The provenance of the Michelangelo drawings can be traced back to Queen Christina of Sweden.
In 1654, at the age of twenty-eight, she abdicated the throne, converted to Catholicism, and moved to Rome, where she filled her residence with works of art. She acquired the Michelangelo drawings prior to her abdication, from her ambassador, who likely bought them from a German artist who spent some time in ltaly. It has been hypothesized that the group was originally in the possession of a painter called Daniele da Volterra, who was Michelangelo’s close friend and collaborator, and who left this group of drawings to one of his assistants called Michele Alberti, upon his death. This is how this group of drawings by Michelangelo, along with a portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra, ended up in the Teylers Museum.
CUNO: And then how did the twenty-some-odd drawings from the Teylers Museum come to the Getty?
BROOKS: The Metropolitan Museum, a couple of years ago, did this huge exhibition of Michelangelo drawings, put together by their curator, the amazing Carmen Bambach, who is such an extraordinary specialist on Michelangelo and has done so much work on him, as well as Leonardo. But the Metropolitan Museum did this huge show and asked to borrow a number of drawings from the Teylers Museum for that exhibition.
And the Teylers, for them, their Michelangelo drawings are their great treasure. It’s twenty-eight Michelangelo drawings and the portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra. And they really decided that they wanted to do their own thing, essentially, and to really have that be the focus of the show.
So they launched the idea of having an exhibition, and the Getty collaborated with the Cleveland Museum of Art to put together the exhibition that was then shown in Cleveland, and is now at the Getty.
CUNO: And Julian, you came to the Getty from the Ashmolean in Oxford, also known for its Michelangelo drawings. Is the Michelangelo drawings exhibition a holy grail for Renaissance drawing specialists like yourself? I mean, this doesn’t happen very often because the drawings themselves are fragile and they can’t be shown that frequently. But when there’s a chance to bring twenty-five of them together or twenty-seven of them together, it must be, for you, a great, extraordinary, emotional experience.
BROOKS: It really is. You know, Michelangelo is one of the great artists of the Renaissance, obviously, and such an amazingly fluent draftsman and just so multifaceted in many ways because he’s principally a sculptor, but then also a painter, an architect. And his drawings are just a sort of extraordinary mine of information. And at the Ashmolean, we had quite a number of sheets. And for the four years I was at the Ashmolean, I really felt I sort of got to know Michelangelo.
But it’s extraordinary to do this exhibition at the Getty, to bring these drawings from the Teylers Museum to Los Angeles, and to have a big, a major Michelangelo exhibition in L.A. We at the Getty have two very fine Michelangelo drawings; but to have an exhibition with twenty-eight Michelangelo drawings is such a big deal.
CUNO: And as I said earlier, not long after you mounted this beautiful and deeply moving Michelangelo drawing exhibition, Julian and Edina, you had to close it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now it’s been closed for some months. Your interviews about it, including this one for this podcast have kept the exhibition alive.
Those who saw it here and those who may yet see it, because there’s a chance that it might reopen before the drawings have to go back to the Teylers Museum, owe you, Julian and Edina, a great debt of thanks. So, thank you both very much for bringing the exhibition to Los Angeles and to the Getty, and for joining me on this podcast.
ADAM: Thank you.
BROOKS: Thank you, Jim. It’s a pleasure.
CUNO: This episode was produced by Zoe Goldman, with audio production by Gideon Brower and mixing by Mike Dodge Weiskopf. Our theme music comes from the “The Dharma at Big Sur” composed by John Adams, for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003, and is licensed with permission from Hendon Music. Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms. For photos, transcripts and more resources, visit or if you have a question, or an idea for an upcoming episode, write to us at Thanks for listening.

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
JULIAN BROOKS: You have all these incredibly powerful people across Italy, all writing to Michelang...

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