The J. Paul Getty Museum

Study of a Mourning Woman

Object Details


Study of a Mourning Woman


Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475 - 1564)




Italy (Place Created)


about 1500–1505


Pen and brown ink, heightened with white lead opaque watercolor

Object Number:



26 × 16.5 cm (10 1/4 × 6 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

This powerful study of a mourning woman encapsulates Michelangelo’s extraordinary talent for monumental figural conceptions. It is characterized by dense crosshatching in pen and brown ink (a technique he learned from his time in the studio of Domenico Ghirlandaio), creating a solid form that is sculptural in effect; indeed the hatched penwork recalls Michelangelo’s use of the claw chisel to model the surfaces of his marble sculptures. Combining elements of both his early copies and his more dynamic original preparatory studies datable to the early 1500s, the Mourning Woman documents Michelangelo’s shift from his youthful studies to his iconic independent works, notably the Florentine Battle of Cascina mural project of c. 1504. The figure appears to be dressed in a peplum, a full-length robe worn by women of antiquity as depicted in Renaissance painting. The pose and attitude of the woman is one that would typically have been found in a composition of the Deposition from the Cross or a Lamentation. No such project is known to have been undertaken by Michelangelo at this stage of his career yet early copies of this drawing indicate such a possibility. Michelangelo’s Mourning Woman was discovered in 1995 by Sotheby’s specialist Julien Stock within an album of otherwise nondescript drawings in the library of Castle Howard, Yorkshire, England. Its sale at auction in July 2001 was widely reported and as a result this drawing achieved international fame.


Jonathan Richardson the Elder (L.2183, L.2184, L.2983, L.2984, L.2993, L.2994, L.2995, L.2996), British, 1667 - 1745


probably Henry Howard, 4th earl of Carlisle, English, 1694 - 1758, by inheritance within Howard family.


Trustees of George Anthony Geoffrey Howard, Baron Howard of Henderskelfe, British, 1920 - 1984 [sold, "The Property of the Trustees of the Will of Lord Howard," Sotheby's, London, July 11, 2001, lot 81, to Jean-Luc Baroni]


Jean-Luc Baroni, Ltd., sold to private collector.


Private Collection, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017.

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer (November 6, 2017 to February 12, 2018)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), November 6, 2017 to February 12, 2018
Michelangelo to Degas: Major New Acquisitions (January 17 to April 22, 2018)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 17 to April 22, 2018
Spectacular Mysteries: Renaissance Drawings Revealed (December 11, 2018 to April 28, 2019)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 11, 2018 to April 28, 2019
Michelangelo: Mind of the Master (September 22, 2019 to November 1, 2020)
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland), September 22, 2019 to January 5, 2020
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 25 to November 1, 2020

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Ongpin, Stephen. Michelangelo: Study of a Mourning Woman; a Masterpiece Rediscovered (Florence: Baroni, 2001).

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Baskcomb, Camilla, Peter Bower, and Julien Stock. "Michelangelo's Mourning Woman: The Rediscovery and Investigation of a Forgotten Drawing." Paper Conservator 25 (2001): 151-165.

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