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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 14:59 GMT
Michelangelo sold to US buyer
Study of a Mourning Woman
The drawing lay undisturbed for more than 200 years
A Michelangelo drawing that languished undiscovered in a castle in the north of England for at least 200 years has been sold to an unnamed American art collector.

Study for a Mourning Woman was sold by London art dealer Jean-Luc Baroni for an undisclosed sum of money after UK museums and galleries failed to raise the cash to buy it and keep it in the country.

Mr Baroni bought the drawing from the auction house Sotheby's in July last year for more than 5.9m ($8.3m).

The drawing was discovered last year in an album of otherwise undistinguished old master drawings during an insurance valuation at Castle Howard, in Yorkshire.

I would have been very pleased for the National Galleries to buy it

Jean-Luc Baroni

The Edinburgh-based National Galleries of Scotland had been in the running to acquire it, but was unable to compete with the American buyer after the Heritage Lottery Fund refused to help fund its bid.

The National Galleries' bid needed lottery fund back-up to the tune of 75%.

Speaking from Italy, Mr Baroni told BBC News Online the deal had only been clinched with the American buyer after the National Galleries had been offered a chance to buy.

"I would have been very pleased for the National Galleries to buy it - I said that when I bought the drawing," he said.

The Honourable Simon Howard and actor
Simon Howard (r), current master of Castle Howard

A reserve period had been fixed until the end of December 2001 in order for the National Galleries to try to raise the money, he said.

It was during this period that the drawing's eventual buyer had shown an interest," Mr Baroni added.

That buyer had been willing to wait, and to "let the National Gallery make their own decision", he said.

The sale had only been made after a further month and half had expired beyond the end of the reserve period.

'Good home'

In a way, he said, the prospect of the drawing leaving the UK was "very sad".

But he added: "On the other hand, I believe it is going to a good home."

It is thought the study belongs to a small group of large-scale figures which the young Michelangelo is believed to have made very early in his career, between about 1495 and 1505.

It can certainly be numbered among the very earliest drawings by the grand master of the Italian High Renaissance.

Julien Stock, an expert from Sotheby's, recognised the drawing immediately as a Michelangelo when he visited Castle Howard last year.

Sotheby's said Study of a Mourning Woman was most probably purchased at a London auction of 1747 at which Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle was known to have been an active buyer.

See also:

11 Jul 01 | Arts
Michelangelo work fetches 5.9m
16 Mar 01 | Arts
Appeal to save Michelangelo
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