Michelangelo Buonarroti, 'The fall of Phaeton' attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti

'The fall of Phaeton' attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1853

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 - 1564)

RA Collection: Art

The Lawrence Gallery is a series of reproductions of drawings attributed to Raphael and Michelangelo. Printed in 1841 and 1843, and subsequently bound together, this large volume represents a small selection of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s collection of drawings.

Besides being the most eminent portrait painter of his time, Sir Thomas Lawrence was distinguished for his fine taste in art, which was especially represented in his collection of drawings of the old masters. For many years he devoted himself to acquiring invaluable drawings of the great masters, a passion that took him to the edge of financial ruin. With the help of antique dealer Samuel Woodburn, Sir Lawrence built an astonishing collection of drawings by the great masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth century such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Giulio Romano, Titian, Parmigianino, Rubens and Poussin at an estimated value of £40,000. As a result of his incessant collecting, Sir Lawrence amassed a significant number of drawings that rivalled many public and private collections at the time. Righteously in his last will (dated July 12, 1828) he proudly claimed his collection to be ‘in number and value unequalled in Europe’.

After Sir Lawrence’s death in 1830, a proposal was made by the executor of his to the Government to purchase the Lawrence Collection for less than half of its value – £18,000 – with the hope of securing it for the country and preserving it in its entirety. A public subscription began, headed by the Royal Academy with £1,000, to acquire the drawings for the National Gallery but it was not taken forward by the Government of the day or by the governing bodies of the British Museum and the National Gallery. Therefore, the executors did not succeed in carrying out Sir Lawrence’s wishes to keep the collection together. In 1835 the executor finally resolved to cede the collection to the Woodburn merchants, the principal creditor of the painter, for £16,000. The collaction was eventually dispersed in ten exhibitions.

The Woodburns kept the drawings of Raphael and Michelangelo until they published the Lawrence Gallery as a sale catalogue to promote the last and most exquisite drawings of Sir Lawrence’s collection. After a prolonged period of sales from 1840 to 1845 the Woodburns sold some of the Raphael drawings to the Museum of Oxford University at the price of £7,000. The Louvre, the Frankfurt Museums, and the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar acquired the remaining Michelangelos. The Lawrence Gallery is not only an invaluable testimony of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s passion for collecting but it is also a tool to explore the artist’s production process via his models and influences.

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Object details

'The fall of Phaeton' attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti
Published by
Allen Woodburn (1786 - 1851) and Samuel Woodburn (1783 - 1853)
Object type
Place of Publication
Pen lithograph

346 mm x 251 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Lawrence Gallery. A Series Of Fac-Similes Of Original Drawings By M. Angelo Buonarotti, Selected From The Matchless Collection Formed by Sir Thomas Lawrence, late President of the Royal Academy. - London: 1853.

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