Michelangelo drawings at the BM

The British Museum has an exhibition of Michelangelo drawings at the moment. According to them:

Drawing on the outstanding collections of the British Museum, the Ashmolean and the Teyler Museum in Haarlem, Michelangelo Drawings is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow the evolution of some of the world’s most celebrated artworks

Which is probably fair. Being Michelangelo, it basically consists of lots and lots of drawings of contorted male nudes. There are occasional other things – a drapery study, a few architectural sketches, even a picture of a woman – but basically it’s figure studies. If he ever filled in a spare minute by sketching the cat, or a bunch of flowers, those pictures didn’t make it into the exhibition.

Apparently he was very reluctant to show people unfinished works and burnt most of his sketches before his death, so conceivably the ones he burnt included lots of pictures of bunnies and trees, but somehow I doubt it.

Despite being a tad repetitive (ooh look, another muscular torso), it’s an enjoyable exhibition. There’s a certain simple thrill in seeing the preliminary drawings for the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the dome of St Peters, and it’s interesting to get a sense of his working methods, but to be honest I have a limited tolerance for the really sketchy drawings. Fortunately there were enough more highly finished things to keep me engaged.

Mind you, drawings are never quite the real thing. The second-hand magic of photos of the Sistine Chapel and the Pietà was almost more powerful than having even the best drawings right in front of you.

One note: it’s very crowded. Despite having to wait nearly two hours to use my timed ticket, I still spent a lot of the time waiting to look at things to looking over people’s shoulders. But the wait did give me an opportunity to go to Bi Won, a Korean restaurant in Coptic Street that I’d recommend for lunch if you go to the BM. The lunch-time sets for about £6.50 are superb value.

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