Jewish World Review July 11, 2002 / 2 Menachem-Av, 5762
Frederick M. Winship
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) The Smithsonian's National Museum of Design announced Wednesday that a chalk drawing of a candelabrum found by a Scottish scholar in an old box of drawings has been verified as an original by Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance master.
"The drawing was discovered last April by Sir Timothy Clifford, a Renaissance scholar who is director of the National Galleries of Scotland, when he was visiting our museum," said Stephen Malmberg, a spokesman for the design museum known at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, a Manhattan branch of the Smithsonian Institution.
"It has been verified by several other experts as being from the hand of Michelangelo, although it is unsigned, and we plan to exhibit it sometime in the future," Malmberg said. "We acquired the drawing in 1942 along with four other unsigned drawings for the price of $60."
Malmberg declined to put any value on the find, but Michelangelo drawings regularly have brought more than $1 million at auction in recent years. The artist, best known for his sculpture, was also an architect, and the new find is believed to relate to one of his design commissions.
Clifford had been invited to visit by the Cooper-Hewitt's director, Paul Thompson, on the completion of a new center for drawings at the museum, Malmberg said. When he was going through boxes of old drawings he came upon the large, detailed candelabrum drawing in black chalk and recognized it immediately as typical of Michelangelo in style.
"It's in fabulous condition -- pristine," Malmberg said. "We have shown it to a number of experts including George Goldner, drawings curator at the Metropolitan Museum and all are in unanimous agreement as to Sir Timothy's attribution."
Clifford had gone through a number of boxes of anonymous drawings before he got to Box 366 marked "lighting fixtures" and found the Michelangelo. He told museum authorities that he believes the drawing relates to the master's grand design for the Medici tombs in Florence and probably is a design for a menorah, a type of candelabrum used in Jewish religious ritual.
The drawing shows a tall obelisk-like candle stand without branches. The two-part pedestal is supported by lion's feet and flanked by winged angels that support a shaft decorated with ram's heads, garlands, urns, and balusters. Every detail is in the classic Greek and Roman design vocabulary favored in the High Renaissance.
According to museum records, the drawing was purchased along with a number of decorative designs from Colnaghi, a prominent London dealership that had identified it simply as a 16th century Italian work. Colnaghi had acquired it 20 years earlier from the collection of Lord Amherst of Hackney.
The Cooper-Hewitt owns more than 160,000 works on paper, Malmberg said, many of them still unidentified.
The Michelangelo, believed to date from 1525 to 1530, had been tentatively attributed to Perino del Vaga, an obscure Italian Renaissance painter. There are fewer than a dozen Michelangelo drawings in American collections, the last previous discovery having been made in 1976 among the many unidentified drawings in the Metropolitan Museum's collection.
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