George RICHMOND (Brompton 1809 - London 1896)

Copy after a Cast of the Right Arm of Michelangelo’s David Sold

Pencil and pen and brown ink.
A faint sketch of a seated figure drawn in pencil on the verso.
Inscribed and signed with initials 'From M Angelo - / GR' and dated 1828 in pencil at the lower right.
276 x 97 mm. (10 7/8 x 3 7/8 in.)


Like his mentor William Blake, George Richmond preferred the work of Michelangelo to that of Raphael, and his youthful drawings often emulate the pen and ink manner of the Italian master’s draughtsmanship. As Susan Sloman has noted, ‘Richmond was struck more forcibly than the other Ancients by Blake’s indebtedness to Michelangelo and used his own rapidly-developing powers as a draughtsman to pick up this particular thread from Blake and make it his own.’ In 1838 Richmond travelled with Palmer to Rome. There he finally came into direct contact with the works of Michelangelo, of whom he noted in a diary entry, following a visit the Sistine Chapel, that ‘he indeed was the King of Art’.

The Royal Academy Schools are known to have had a cast of the right arm of Michelangelo’s David in the Antique Room, from which Richmond must have drawn the present sheet, since he did not visit Florence until 1838. In an entry in his early Account Book, dated June 1827, Richmond noted that he had made ‘A finished drawing of Michael Angelos Arm’, while a year later, in June 1828, he wrote that he ‘Made a moddel [sic] of MA Arm’; the second of these two entries may refer to the present sheet. Another Michelangelesque study by Richmond after a cast of the right arm of the David appears on a sheet of studies – drawn in a combination of red chalk, pen and ink, and pencil and also dated 1828 - in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Richmond may well have referred to the present sheet or the Ashmolean drawing when preparing his Michelangelesque tempera painting Christ and the Woman of Samaria of the same year, now in the collection of Tate Britain3. In the Tate painting, the bare arm of the Samaritan woman is very close to the right arm of the David as studied in both this drawing and that in the Ashmolean.

When Richmond came to eventually see, at first hand, Michelangelo’s monumental sculpture of David in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, he wrote in praise of it that it had ‘a nerve, spring and life about [it] which reduces the two works of Bandinelli near it quite to stone, they are large but this is great, they are muscular but this has strength, they are there for ever but this might walk away.’3 As he also wrote, ‘The more I see of those who copy M[ichael] A[ngelo] the more steadily convinced I feel that he of all men in art will least adorn an imitation – one can bear to be reminded through an imitation of Leonardo, Rafaello and the other great painters but M.A. thoughts can only be well read in his own language and it is the perfect harmony between the thoughts and the expression of it that enables to first bear and then to admire the labours of the mighty man.’

By descent in the family of the artist
Private collection, UK.


Copy after a Cast of the Right Arm of Michelangelo’s David


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