- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

A scholar in the decorative arts of the Italian Renaissance has stumbled across a rare find: a drawing that is unsigned but probably is the work of the Italian Renaissance artistic giant Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Sir Timothy Clifford, director of the National Galleries of Scotland at Edinburgh and a specialist in Italian decorative arts, found the drawing in April while researching the extensive holdings of Italian drawings at the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City.

Cooper-Hewitt Director Paul Warwick Thompson announced the discovery yesterday. The drawing, possibly of a candelabrum , is done in black chalk, brush and brown wash with incised line on cream laid paper paper that shows thick and thin lines at right angles to each other and is typical of Michelangelo's idiosyncratic style.

Sarah E. Lawrence, director of the institution's Master's Program in the History of the Decorative Arts, estimates the drawing's date at between 1530 and 1540. The last known discovery of a Michelangelo drawing in the United States was in 1976, when a work in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was attributed to the Renaissance master. (It had been bought in 1962.)

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum estimates the value of its Michelangelo (measuring 17-1/16 inches by 10 inches) at $10 million to $12 million, according to estimates made by art dealer Richard Feigen. "We only know of a handful of works made by Michelangelo on this scale of decorative objects," Ms. Lawrence says.

Scholars in the field have unanimously verified the authenticity of the drawing. Eight scholars in the United States and Great Britain as well as conservation laboratory datings have confirmed its authenticity.

Reached in London by telephone, Andrew Robison, Andrew W. Mellon senior curator of the National Gallery of Art, said, "This is an important find. The scholars are all very well-versed in Italian Renaissance drawings, and given their concurrence, I would absolutely trust them. Getting another Michelangelo in America is very important. There are only about a dozen.

"We want to do a show within the next year which will place the work in the context of Michelangelo's other decorative-arts drawings and try to create a trail behind the discovery," Mr. Thompson says.

The museum recently opened the Drue Heinz Study Center for Drawings and Prints, one of the most important repositories of European and American design.

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