This artwork was put on display as recently as 2016 at the new Harley Gallery in Nottinghamshire. Previously, it is not believed to have been shown in public for at least 50 years, making this quite a coup for this regional art venue.
Madonna del Silenzio (Madonna of Silence) is specifically owned by the Cavendish-Bentinck family as part of their renowned Portland Collection. The Harley Gallery itself is relatively local to the family and has also loaned works by George Stubbs and Anthony van Dyck. There are also several family portraits by John Singer Sargent.
It is believed to have been the sixth Duke who acquired the artwork found here, but the collection itself has been built up over many centuries and from contributions by a multitude of donors.
This is clearly not Michelangelo's only depiction of the Holy Family, in chalk, pencil or any other medium for that matter. It is, however, a detailed work which was probably intended to stand out by itself, not simply as a study drawing for another later fresco.
Michelangelo uses red chalk to put this portrait together and varies his line density in order to add the effect of shadows into parts of the drawing. There are some background items included but the majority of the sketch focuses on the figurative portraits found in the foreground.
The draughtsmanship of the Renaissance masters has become one of the highlights of all art history and a necessary item for those looking to learn the secrets behind their work. The techniques displayed here provided a basis for much of their work in other mediums, such as architectural plans, sculpture and particularly painting.