Michelangelo's big party at the British Museum

Silence, in capital letters.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
30 March 2024 Saturday 10:36
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Michelangelo's big party at the British Museum

Silence, in capital letters. And an unusual landscape to which almost no one has access. It is almost easier to enter Buckingham Palace than the British Museum's Drawing Room, where the very fragile sketches, sketches, engravings and complete works of history's greatest artists are kept.

The door to the forbidden place opens and the eyebrows of some eyes arch behind a study table thinking: “And these, who are they? What are you doing here? How dare they?” If there are hidden paradises on the planet, this is one, but you have to explore it on tiptoe and by invitation only.

Hundreds of designs are kept here, the most extensive collection that exists by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), Il Divino, the father of David and the Sistine Chapel. Shelves, boxes, an antique mailbox made of varnished mahogany with the inscription in gold leaf Commissions for the photographer. A feeling of stepping on sacred ground.

Michelangelo, drawings is the title of the latest work from Artika, the publisher that produces limited series artist books and has created a catalog of 8,998 copies (2,850 euros) in which 75 facsimiles of rarely seen originals are reproduced. expose to the public.

It is a piece that in itself is a sculpture because its aluminum case, which replicates veined marble, sports a relief cover of David. That is, it is not a collector's piece that can share space with other catalogs. He needs space to breathe and say: “Here I am, I am the one who sculpted The Pietá at the age of 23, I am the one who rubbed shoulders with Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael of Urbino, I am the one who gave birth to Adam... the one who died with pencil in hand.”

Artika could have presented her book anywhere, because the publication, just by looking at it, is already an arcadia in itself, but she appears covered by a veil in a small room full of British symbolism, the one named in honor of Claus Moser , fled from Germany and became an essential figure in the arts and the museum.

The light cotton curtain is raised and in row zero the light is witnessed by Hugo Chapman, Keeper (curator) of the Department of Prints and Drawings; Sarah Vowles, head of the Italian and French works on paper area, the section known as Smirnov Family and Marc Buil, director of Artika.

The catalogue, which weighs more than nine kilos, also contributes to Matthias Wivel, the leading expert on 16th century Italian painting at the National Gallery in London, who delves into the artist's exciting life. “I have never seen a reproduction of this quality of Michelangelo's drawings. It is the closest you can get to the originals, we have managed to get the colors correct. For Michelangelo, drawing is fundamental to his work,” Chapman describes to Magazine.

“This year is our twentieth anniversary and we believed we owed a debt to one of the greatest artists of all time,” says Marc Buil. The publishing house he directs has produced catalogs on Miquel Barceló, Fernando Botero, Antonio López and Lita Cabellut, among others, which are anthological. “It is a wonderful experience” to bring together all these drawings that are exhibited very occasionally, explains Sarah Vowles.

In this case, the elaboration of the content - the 75 sheets are glued to the paper on three points - is as meticulous as the continent: it is not easy to achieve a cover that is doubly outstanding for its beauty and because it stands out in three dimensions. It is a piece of art with a Florentine flavor that flourishes in a process that can be seen… and smelled.

Anchored in the past, oblivious to Norman Foster's renovation, to the food stalls (oh my) and the souvenir shops in the Grand Court, the Drawing Room smells of ancestry. But a few minutes pass and someone stands up and asks “Who are you?” The answer is obvious. “We are friends of Michelangelo.” At the British Museum, of course, there is no need to specify that it is the exceptional artist, not the mutant ninja turtle.