Michelangelo Drawings

We know and admire Michelangelo as a sculptor, painter and architect, a true genius of renaissance art. Many of the Michelangelo drawings that he completed, some as studies for his larger works such as the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and some as gifts for friends, are notable works of art in their own right. The art historian Vasari stated that Michelangelo destroyed many of his drawings, “so that he would leave nothing that is not perfect.” The many drawings that do survive provide a snapshot of the thought process of a great artist. Presented here is a personal selection of just a few examples of Michelangelo’s work.

Head of Cleopatara by Michelangelo

Head of Cleopatra, c.1533-4, black chalk on paper, Casa Buonarroti, Florence, Italy.

The Egyptian Queen seems unperturbed by the asp coiled around her shoulders and biting her breast.

Michelangelo, Portrait of Andrea Quartesi

Portrait of Andrea Quartesi, c.1532

The only surviving portrait drawing by Michelangelo. Quartesi was a youth of noble birth  a member of a wealthy Florentine banking family.

Michelangelo's study for a Pieta

Study for a Pieta, c.1540, black chalk on paper, Isabella  Stewart Gardener Museum, Boston, MA, USA.

The Madonna, aided by angels, supports her lifeless son in a dramatically expressed and beautifully  executed drawing. The work was a gift for Michelangelo’s friend Vittoria Colonna.

Michelangelo, Study for the Risen Christ

Study for the risen Christ, 1532-33, black chalk on paper, British Museum, London.

One of many studies of the muscular male body that Michelangelo excelled at. Note the twisting motion of the torso expertly captured by the artist.


Michelangelo, study of drapery

Study for the drapery of the Erythraean Sibyl, 1508-12, brown wash with dark brown ink over a black chalk under drawing, British Museum, London.

A study for one of the five Sibyls on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Michelangelo, study for the Crucifixion of Christ.

Crucifixion of Christ, black chalk drawing, British Museum, London.

Christ is shown alive and suffering on the cross, this is in contrast to the usual depiction of the dead Christ figure of the times. The drawing was a gift for Vittoria Colonna.

The Fall of Phaeton 1, Michelangelo

The Fall of Phaeton, black chalk drawing, British Museum, London.

Another gift for Thommaso de’ Cavalieri one of four Michelangelo drawings given to Thommaso by the artist.


The fall of Phaethon 2, Michelangelo

The Fall of Phaeton, black chalk drawing, Royal Library, Windsor, London.

In popular mythology Phaeton asked his father Appolo for the use of the sun chariot for the day. But he could not control it the chariot rose too high and the earth froze, too low and it was scorched. Jupiter intervened with a thunderbolt knocking Phaeton from the sky.

Study of a man in profile, Michelangelo

Study of a man in profile, c.1501-5, pen and brown ink on paper. British Museum, London.

This detailed drawing of a man with a beard resembles a satyr or devil.


The Damned Soul a study by Michelangelo

Study of a man shouting, also known as The Damned Soul, c.1525-34, Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

This was a presentation drawing for Gherardo Perini, who was one of the life models in Michelangelo’s studio.

Study of a head by Michelangelo

Study of a head, the Marchioness of Pescara, c.1525-8, black chalk on paper, British Museum, London.

The drawing was a presentation piece for the Marchioness; she is drawn in great detail with careful shading of the face area.

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra by Michelangelo

Zenobia, Queen of  Palmyra, c.1520-25, charcoal on paper, Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

Michelangelo has depicted the Empress bare breasted in three-quarter profile with elaborate braded hair.


PunishmenTityus by Michelangelo

Punishment of Tityus, black chalk drawing, Royal Library, Windsor, London.

Bacchanal of Children, Michelangelo

Bacchanal of Children, black chalk drawing, Royal Library, Windsor, London.

Created as a gift for Thommaso de’ Cavalieri it represents the lowest level of human activity.

Nude study for the Battle of Cascina by Michelangelo

Nude study for the Battle of Cascina, c.1503-05, red chalk on paper, Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

A fantastic image of a twisting torso showcasing Michelangelo’s extensive knowledge of human anatomy.

Syudy for a seated male nude, Michelangelo

Study for a seated male nude, c.1505, pen and ink with grey and brown wash, British Museum, London.

Another preparatory Michelangelo drawing for the Battle of Cascina showing the twisting body of an athletic man.

Study of a head by Michelangelo

Study of a head, c.1508-10, Red and black chalk with pen on metal point. British Museum, London.

A preparatory drawing for the heads of the ignudi on the Sistine Ceiling.

Study of a seated woman, Michelangelo.

Study of a seated woman, pen and brown ink with red and black chalk, c.1525, British Museum, London.

Some parts of this sketch (such as the red chalk under-drawing) are thought to be by Michelangelo’s pupil Antonio Mini. The work was then completed by Michelangelo.

Red chalk head, Michelangelo.

Red chalk head, c.1511, British Museum, London.

This beautifully drawn study of a head is possibly a preparatory Michelangelo drawing for one of the many ignudi on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Study of an ideal head, Michelangelo.
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Study of an ideal head, c.1516, red chalk on paper, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.

This study is one of my favourite drawings by Michelangelo, the soft shading of the red chalk on the neck and face is wonderful.

Michelangelo.
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