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Getty Museum Buys Art by Michelangelo, Parmigianino and More

LOS ANGELES — The Getty Museum has made the biggest financial outlay for art in its history, buying 16 drawings and one painting by artists including Michelangelo, Parmigianino and Watteau from an unidentified British collector.

Judging from sales records for several of these artworks during weaker art-market periods, the Getty’s purchase price could have easily topped $100 million. The museum’s director, Timothy Potts, would not confirm the amount except to say that the deal was “the Getty’s biggest in terms of financial value.”


“Study of a Mourning Woman,” by Michelangelo.

via Getty Museum

“This acquisition is absolutely transformative in terms of the quality of our drawings collection,” Mr. Potts added. “There hasn’t been an opportunity like this in 30 years of the Getty’s existence and there won’t be again.”

The cache is particularly rich in 16th-century drawings, with Michelangelo’s “Study of a Mourning Woman” showing a body bent in despair under a thick sculptural-looking robe; Andrea del Sarto’s “Study for the Head of St. Joseph” depicting the haggard saint asleep; and Parmigianino’s “Head of a Young Man” showing a beautifully full-lipped, wide-eyed boy looking upward. The sole painting in the group is Jean-Antoine Watteau’s “La Surprise,” circa 1718, which shows a commedia dell’arte character playing the guitar for a couple brazenly embracing.

The Watteau, which was believed lost until 2008, brought 12.36 million British pounds, or about $24.49 million, when it sold at Christie’s that year. The del Sarto brought £6.5 million, or $12.86 million, at Christie’s in 2005. The Michelangelo, also a rediscovery, brought £5.94 million, or $8.76 million, at Sotheby’s in 2001.


Jean-Antoine Watteau’s “La Surprise,” circa 1718, was the lone painting in the acquisition. It was thought lost until 2008.

via Getty Museum

Also in the group: a wild Goya sketch of a man hanging from a cliff while eagle-hunting, a large Degas pastel of a woman drying off after a bath, and a panoramic Albert Cuyp drawing of the Meuse River that complements a Cuyp landscape painting already at the Getty.

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