Michelangelo Buonarroti - Pietà, 1540

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese, 1475 - 1564, Rome)

Pietà, 1540

Black chalk on paper, 28.9 x 18.9 cm (11 3/8 x 7 7/16 in.)


Object details

Accession number





Given by Michelangelo to Vittoria Colonna (1490–1547), Marchesa di Pescara and poet, in 1540.
Collection of Louis-Charles Brunet (1746–1825), Paris.
Collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), English painter and collector.
Purchased by Samuel Woodburn (1780/5–1853), British art dealer, from Archibald Keightly, the executor of Sir Lawrence's estate, in 1834.
Offered at the auction of Samuel Woodburn's collection by Christie and Manson, London on 24 June1854, lot 1788. Unsold.
Purchased by a dealer, Enson, at auction from the sale of Samuel Woodburn's collection by Christie, Manson and Woods, London on 4 June 1860 for £52 10s, lot 119.
Collection of Mr. Brooks, Liverpool until 1872.
Acquired by Francis Turner Palgrave (1827–1897), British critic and poet, by 1884.
Purchased by Sir John Charles Robinson (1824–1913), British museum curator and art collector, at auction from a sale which included the remaining portion of Francis Turner Palgrave's collection at Christie, Manson and Woods, London on 4 June 1886, lot 8.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner at auction from the sale of Sir John Charles Robinson's collection at Christie, Manson and Woods, London on 13 May 1902 for £560 through the dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons, lot 206.


Watermark: ladder in a circle with a star. ['Ladder C'. See J. Roberts. A Dictionary of Michelangelo's Watermarks (Milan, 1988), p. 23]Inscribed by Michelangelo in pencil (upright of the Cross): nonvisipensa.quanto.sangu[...]. [Dante, Divine Comedy, Paradise, XXIX, 91]Inscribed in pen and brown ink (lower left): JCR [collector's mark of Sir John Charles Robinson, Lugt 1433] Blind stamped (lower left): T.L. [Sir Thomas Lawrence (Lugt 2445)]Inscribed in pencil (verso of an earlier mount): 206 [lot number in Robinson sale]Inscribed in pencil by Francis Turner Palgrave (verso of an earlier mount): M. A. Buonarroti / Brunet - Lawrence - Brooks Coll[ectio]ns / 1872 / F. T. Palgrave / I take this to be the drawing in which Michel Angelo, in his later life, "published" the design, which was twice or thrice engraved + several times produced in oil (e.g. at Panshangen) about that time: + that it was hence rubbed + cut. The cross, which had a peculiar top, was one in repute for some time at Florence. "Non si vi pensa, quanto sangue costa" is from the Commedia; Paradiso, CXXIX / 11 Aug 1884 / F. T. P.Inscribed in pen and brown ink by John Charles Robinson (verso of the same earlier mount): The above is written by Francis Turner Palgrave and the drawing was sold in the remaining portion of his collection of ancient drawings included in the sale at Christie's (Lord Breadalbane's drawings &c) June 4, 1886 and was purchased by myself. It is unquestionaby an authentic drawing of Michel Angelo's later time. The watermark in the paper, a ladder within a circle, will be found in my Oxford "account of M Angelo & Raffaelle drawing, it is no 19 in the table of facsimile marks, and was copied from one of the Oxford drawings (no 80) - an architectural design for a window, circa 1541-65. The present dra [wing] belongs undoubtedly to the same epoch. J.C. RobinsonInscribed in pen and brown ink by John Charles Robinson (verso of the same earlier mount): The drawing is no 64 in the Woodburn exhibition Catalogue July 1836 size 11 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches - from the collection of M Brunet of Paris.Stamped (verso of the same earlier mount): ISG [collector's mark of Isabella Stewart Gardner]Inscribed in blue ink (verso of the same earlier mount): This drawing was purchased by me from the Robinson collection, through Messers. Agnew, in London- Summer 1902 / Isabella Stewart Gardner / Fenway Court Boston USA.

Dimension Notes

Frame: 53.34 x 40.64 cm (21 x 16 in.)


Ascanio Condivi. Vita di Michelangelo Buonarroti scritta da Ascanio Condivi suo discepolo. (Pisa, 1823), p. 78. Ascanio Condivi. Vita di Michelangelo Buonarroti (Rome,1553), ed. by C. Frey (Berlin, 1887), p. 202.Samuel and Allen Woodburn. A Catalogue of One Hundred Original Drawings by Michael Angelo, Collected by Sir Thomas Lawrence ...Exh. cat. (London: The Lawrence Gallery, July 1836), p. 23, no. 64. (as a study for the celebrated Pieta engraved by Julio Bonasone) Christie and Manson. Catalogue of the Highly Interesteing and Important Collection of Drawings,... the property of that well-known Judge of the Fine Arts, Samuel Woodburn, Esq... (London, 24 June 1854), p. 76, lot 1788.Christie, Manson and Woods. Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Drawings by Old Masters Formerly in the Collection of the late Sir Thomas Lawrence, P.R.A, and more recently the Property of Samuel Woodburn, Esq.... (London, 4 June 1860), p. 11, lot 119.Christie, Manson and Woods. Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters from the Collection of the late Marquis of Breadablbane and Others, the Property of a Nobleman... (London, 4 June 1886), p. 4, lot 8.Christie, Manson and Woods. Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Drawings by Old Masters Formed by a Well-Known Amateur During the Last Forty Years (London, 12-14 May 1902), p. 24, lot 206. Bernard Berenson. The Drawings of the Florentine Painters (Chicago and London, 1938), II, p. 235, no. 1623 C, fig. 736. (as a copy)Charles de Tolnay. "Michelanelo's Pietà Composition for Vittoria Colonna." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 12, no. 2 (1953), pp. 45 n. 3, 48-49. (as original presentation drawing given to Colonna by Michelangelo)Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). Drawings: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1968), pp. 12-15, no. 7.Frederick Hartt. Michelangelo drawings (New York, 1970), p.323, no. 455, 326, ill. (as datable to 1538-40) Reiner Haussherr. Michelangelos Kruzifixus für Vittoria Colonna; Bemerkungen zu Ikonographie und theologischer Deutung (Opladen, 1971), p. 10, fig. 4Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), pp. 64-65, ill. (as datable to around 1540-44)Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt. "Mrs. Gardner's Renaissance." Marks of Identity: New Perspectives on Sixteenth-Century Italian Sculpture. Fenway Court, vol. 23 (1990-1991), pp. 10-30, ill. cover.Hilliard Goldfarb. Italian Renaissance Drawings, Medals, and Books. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1991), p. [11].Hilliard Goldfarb. Imaging the Self in Renaissance Italy. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum III. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1992), pp. 41-43, ill.Kristina Herrmann Fiore. "Disegni di Michelangelo in omaggio a Vittoria Colonna e tracce del poema di Dante." in Corrado Gizzi. (ed.) Michelangelo e Dante. Exh. cat. (Abruzzo: Casa di Dante, 1995), pp. 96,97 99-104, ill.Hilliard Goldfarb. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: A Companion Guide and History (Boston, 1995), pp. 78, 80.Alexander Nagel. "Gifts for Michelangelo and Vittoria Colonna." Art Bulletin 8, no. 4 (Dec. 1997), pp. 648-50, 655, fig. 1.Sylvia Ferino-Pagden (ed.). Vittoria Colonna: Dichterin und Muse Michelangelos. Exh. cat. (Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, 1997), pp. 426-28, no. IV.36.Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000).Claudia-Elisabetta Schurr. Vittoria Colonna und Michelangelo Buonarotti: Künstler- und Liebespaar der Renaissance (Tübingen, 2001), p. 183, ill. Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), pp. 80-83. Lucilla Bardeschi Ciulich and Pina Ragionieri (eds.) Michelangelo: grafia e biografia: disegni e autografi del maestro. Exh. cat. (Rome: Palazzo di Venezia; Biel-Bienne: Fondation Baula, 2002), p. 70, ill.Pian Ragionieri (ed.). Vittoria Colonna e Michelangelo.Exh. cat. (Florence: Casa Buonarroti, 2005), pp. 152-53, fig. 29.Maria Forcellino. Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna e gli spirituali: religiosità e vita artistica a Roma negli anni Quaranta (Rome, 2009), pp. 64-75, fig. 1.Megan Holmes. The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence (New Haven, 2013), pp. 155, 158, fig. 136.Michael Cole et al. Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini. Sculptors’ Drawings from Renaissance Italy. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2014), pp.186-87, cat. 23.Lorraine de la Verpillière. "'God is in the details': visual culture of closeness in the circle of Cardinal Reginald Pole." Renaissance Studies (2015), pp. 1-21, fig. 1.Maria Forcellino. "Vittoria Colonna and Michelangelo: Drawings and Paintings" in Abigail Brundin et. al. (eds.). A Companion to Vittoria Colonna (Boston, 2016), pp. 270-313, fig. 7.2Maria Forcellino. "Un nuovo disegno copia della Pietà di Michelangelo per Vittoria Colonna e Reginald Pole." Arte Lombarda, no. 179-180 (2017), pp. 49-57, fig. 1.Carmen C. Bambach. Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. Exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017), pp. 194-95, 198-99, pl. 170.Jessica Maratos. "Michelangelo, Vittoria Colonna, and the Afterlife of Intimacy." The Art Bulletin (December 2017), pp. 69-99, fig. 2.Bernadine Barnes. Michelangelo and the Viewer in His Time (London, 2017), pp. 171-72, 175, 223, fig. 54.Lorenzo Pericolo. "'Donna bella e crudele': Michelangelo's Divine Heads in Light of the Rime." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz (2017), pp. 229-230.Ilaria Taddeo. "Some Observations on 'Michele Grechi Lucchese' Painter and Engraver." Predella Journal of the Visual Arts (nos. 41-42, 2017), p. 80, fig. 14.Cammy Brothers. "A Lady of Letters." The Wall Street Journal (28-29 Apr. 2018), p. C9, ill.Ramie Targoff. Renaissance Woman: The Life of Vittoria Colonna (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), pp. 188-190, ill.Jeongho Park. "In Emulation of Apelles and Michelangelo: The Significance of "EþOIEI" in El Greco's Signatures" in Ianthi Assimakopoulou (ed.). Echoes of Antiquity in the Oeuvre of Domenikos Theotokopoulos. Exh. cat. (Heraklion, Greece: Municipality of Heraklion, 2019), pp. 89-90, fig. 4.5.Christopher J. Nygren. Titian's Icons: Tradition, Charisma, and Devotion in Renaissance Italy. (Philadelphia, 2020), pp. 117, fig. 50. Andrea Alessi, Eretici non Eretici: Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo e il Circolo Degli Spiritual (Rome, 2020), pp. 126, fig. 2.  

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Monumental works of architecture, sculpture, and painting assured Michelangelo’s fame. He poured the same ingenuity into this small sheet, one of a select group of drawings made as finished works of art for esteemed friends. Michelangelo gave this one to the poet Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara.

The pedigree of this drawing no doubt appealed to Gardner, who identified with powerful female collectors. Like the queen of Fenway Court, Michelangelo’s patron Colonna had no surviving children and a strong faith. The Dante quotation, in which Beatrice deplores how few appreciate the sacrifices of martyrs, offered another point of interest. Before 1915, Gardner displayed the drawing in her Long Gallery, a room which doubles as a chapel with a consecrated altar and a library. There, Gardner could study this intimate devotional image near her manuscript copies of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as a letter penned by Vittoria Colonna herself, which Gardner acquired in 1908.