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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Michelangelo work fetches 5.9m
Study of a Woman Draped in Mourning Clothes by Michelangelo
The sketch may have been bought in 1747
A drawing by Michelangelo, discovered last year in the library of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, has sold for 5.9m at auction.

The three-quarter length drawing in pen and brown ink - Study of a Mourning Woman - was expected to raise up to 8m when it was sold by Sotheby's auction house in London.

The sketch, which lay unrecognised for more than 250 years, is said to date from between 1494 and 1504 and is regarded as a major work by one of the greatest artistic geniuses in history.

It is an extremely beautiful and powerful image

It shows a woman seen from the side with her face obscured by the large folds of a heavy cloak.

Excluding the Michelangelo drawings in the Royal collection, only three other important drawings by the artist are known to be still in private hands.

Speaking about the drawing, a Sotheby's spokesman said: "It adds greatly to our knowledge of the earliest works of this great artist, and is also an extremely beautiful and powerful image."


It was a Sotheby's expert, Julien Stock, who chanced upon the work while flicking through a scrapbook of Old Master drawings kept in the library of the stately home for an insurance evaluation.

"Mr Stock recognised it as belonging to a small group of large-scale figure studies by Michelangelo, which the artist is thought to have made early in his career, between about 1495 and 1505," said the spokesman.

"The drawing bears the collector's mark of the 18th century artist and connoisseur Jonathan Richardson Senior.

Sistine Chapel, The Vatican, Rome
A detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
"Although there is no record of exactly when the drawing entered the collection at Castle Howard, it was most probably purchased at the 1747 London auction of Richardson's celebrated drawings collection, where Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle, is known to have been an active buyer."

At the time Sotheby's described the find as "the most significant Michelangelo find in living memory; like finding part of the Holy Grail".

The cost of insuring such a valuable work made it impossible to keep the drawing at Castle Howard, which was the setting for the TV series Brideshead Revisited.

In March the National Galleries of Scotland launched an appeal to raise money to prevent the work from being sold to a private collector or abroad.

Michelangelo was a leading figure in the High Renaissanace and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome as well as sculpting such works as David.

See also:

11 Dec 99 | Europe
Sistine Chapel restored
11 Dec 99 | Europe
In pictures: Sistine glory
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