A debate suddenly renewed on its 500th anniversary.

The world’s great museums are awash in Michelangelo drawings: the consensus among Anglo-American and Italian scholars is that there are around 800 in existence, including those of the Risen Christ and the Labours of Hercules in the Royal Collection, and the artist’s preliminary sketch for the Sistine Chapel’s fresco of the Creation of Man, in the British Museum.

But if three eminent German scholars are to be believed, the methods by which Michelangelo prepared for the epic struggle of painting the 300 figures on the chapel ceiling remains a mystery, and the drawings that are said to explain it merely mystify it. In a beautiful and weighty new book, Michelangelo: Complete Works, they insist that only a small minority of the drawings currently attributed to the master are definitely by him.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

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