The Milein Cosman Project Curatorship

at the British Museum

Grant Lewis - Milein Cosman Project Curatorship at the British MuseumThe Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust is delighted to have supported the appointment of Grant Lewis as the Milein Cosman Project Curator at the British Museum.  From 2022 Grant has been working on the British Museum’s important exhibition Michelangelo: the Last Decades, which opened in May 2024. Grant is also working on a PhD at the Courtauld Institute, following his MPhil and BA studies at the University of Cambridge. For the past two years he has been responsible for many aspects of the exhibition’s organisation, including research and writing for the exhibition publication and the organisation of an international conference to accompany the show and cement its scholarly legacy. Previously Grant had already worked for the British Museum, having held a three-year fellowship on the Getty Paper Project and he contributed to the 2022 exhibition of Parmigianino drawings at the Courtauld Gallery. Among his previous publications is an article in Apollo Magazine called ‘The Renaissance Art of Thieving’, which talks about Michelangelo’s drawings.

The British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings is one of the greatest collections in the world. The BM is committed to developing the next generation of curators and it provides remarkable opportunities for research on objects as well as practical experience of exhibition organisation.

Milein CosmanSupporting the activities of the BM’s Department of Prints and Drawings is something which would have been dear to Milein Cosman’s heart. From 1939 to 1942 Milein attended the Slade School of Fine Art, which moved from London to Oxford to escape wartime bombing. Back then, an artist’s training began, as it had done since the Renaissance, with a long period dedicated entirely to drawing. Since the Ashmolean’s collections had been evacuated from Oxford, she was probably not aware of the great drawings normally housed there, especially Raphael and Michelangelo. But she was already a knowledgeable art historian and followed with pleasure the classes of Tancred Borenius. Another of her tutors was Philip Hendy, who went on to become Director of the National Gallery, and he focused almost entirely on the Italian Renaissance. After leaving the Slade, Milein got together a group of friends to take classes with Kurt Badt, a distinguished German art historian who likewise had a special interest in the Renaissance. In the post-war years, as her career developed, she became a passionate visitor of exhibitions, in London and abroad, and often visited the gallery of the BM’s Department of Prints and Drawings.

Michelangelo (1475–1564), Christ on the cross. Black chalk on paper, c. 1538–41. © 2022 The Trustees of the British Museum.
Michelangelo (1475–1564), The ‘Epifania’. Black chalk on paper, c. 1550–53. © 2022 The Trustees of the British Museum.

The new British Museum exhibition is focused on the later part of Michelangelo’s long career when he was living in Rome. As well as creating sculptures for the Tomb of Pope Julius II, and frescoes such as the Last Judgement for the Sistine Chapel, he worked as the architect of Saint Peter’s. Major tasks such as these required the making of a great many drawings, and important groups connected with these projects are held by the Department of Prints and Drawings. Among the many events accompanying the exhibition is a performance at the Museum of Benjamin Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo by Alessandro Fisher and Roger Vignoles, as part of a special evening presented by Grant Lewis, exploring Michelangelo’s original works and Britten’s interpretation.