In 2017, the Picture Gallery lent three drawings by Michelangelo to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for the exhibition Michelangelo – Divine Draftsman and Designer.

One of the drawings – a design for an altar on one side (recto) and several black chalk studies for elevations on the other (verso) – was in need of substantial conservation work. Centuries ago it had been stuck down on different matts and papers. These different materials, with their distinct movement properties, were creating opposing forces on the sheet, which had led to deep folds and creases. But the matts and surrounds contained important information about the drawing’s history and also needed to be preserved.

Conserving the drawing

Dealing with these complex issues was the Metropolitan Museum’s chief paper conservator, Marjorie Shelly. She carried out the work and in this film she explains the procedures and considerations and shows how the drawing was ‘freed’ from its historic surrounds. The newly conserved drawing was on display in New York until 12 February 2018.