Cartoon for an Epiphany

Michelangelo Buonarroti (after)

Cartoon for an Epiphany

Michelangelo Buonarroti (after)


A reproduction produced by the Vasari Society of a drawing by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The drawing shows the figure of the Virgin Mary in the centre with the child of Christ and St John the Baptist at her feet and more figures either side. One of the children leans from the left against the Virgin's legs while the other stands to the right looking down and watching the first. The Virgin in looking at a youthful looking man who is leaning in from the left, and in the upper right corner of the composition are two more figures with beards. Two more faces are very lightly sketched in in the upper left corner of the composition. The drawing is in black chalk. Text from the accompanying booklet produced by the Vasari Society: "No. 4 MICHELANGELO BUONARROTI (b. 1475; d. 1564) CARTOON FOR AN EPIPHANY British Museum, 1895-15-518*. From the Casa Buonarroti, Wicar, Lucien Bonaparte, Lawrence and Malcolm Collections. Black chalk on brownish paper: in some parts seriously retouched. 232.7 x 185.6 cm. (7 ft. 7 1/2 in. x 6 ft. 1 in.). The Virgin is seen seated in full face with the infant Christ and St. John the Baptist at her feet, the former nestling into the folds of her dress: Joseph appears looking on from behind her towards the right: between them, farther back, is seen somewhat indistinctly the face of a bearded man: in the foreground to the left (the Virgin's right) stands a young man turning towards her with his left hand advanced in the gesture of one offering or pleading. The figures are above life size: the work, where it is intact, is very characteristic of the master's late time, about 1535-45. The best parts are the figures and heads of the children and of the young man on the left: injuries and re-touches have disfigured and thrown out of proportion the face of the Virgin herself. Dr. J. P. Richter seems to have identified this cartoon beyond dispute as the same which is described as an 'Epiphany' in an inventory of the effects left by Michelangelo in his studio at his death, and again in a notarial document of some weeks later. In these documents the cartoon is said to show the figures of three grown-up persons and two children, the dimly-seen head in the background towards the right being ignored. The name Epiphany signifies that the composition is intended to represent an adoration of the Magi, but the treatment is mystical and not literal: otherwise the infant Baptist would of course not be present. Granting this identification to be correct, the figure addressing the Virgin to the left would be the youngest of the Magi, while the third would have been lost in the cutting away of a part of the composition to the left: there are signs that such mutilation has really taken place. ... S. C."

Object Name

Cartoon for an Epiphany

Date Created



support: 45.6cm x 38.1cm

accession number


Place of creation



Fill out my online form.