Ancient Ideals and New Discoveries

The Städel’s Department of Prints and Drawings preserves a drawing whose attribution to Michelangelo used to be the subject of fierce discussion: sometimes the sheet was thought to be autograph, sometimes the work of a pupil. Most recently, several experts reattributed it to Michelangelo. Starting out from this sheet, but not limited to it, this exhibition is going to explore the problem of attribution, which in the case of Michelangelo’s drawings is particularly controversial. By means of a number of outstanding loans – mainly from the British Museum in London, but also from other European collections – such issues as original, copy, drawing style, and quality will be addressed. The Städel’s sheet can be related to so-called “didactic drawings,” in which Michelangelo drew motifs for his students to copy on the same sheet. This allows for a direct comparison of quality and style. Such comparisons can be also made between several autograph drawings by Michelangelo and copies executed after them by his students, but also between a preliminary study by Michelangelo and another by Sebastiano del Piombo, both of which were made in preparation for the same painting. This compact exhibition will comprise some 25 works, including 14 autograph drawings and letters by Michelangelo. It will instruct visitors how to recognize the quality of drawings and will invite them to take a close look, draw comparisons, and form their own opinion.