D.1 Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil (Allegory of Death and Fame)

D.1 Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil

Disegno di stampa for Agostino Veneziano’s engraving of 1518


Florence, Uffizi, no. 6499F.

Fig.D.1a bw
Fig.D.1c bw, left side
Fig.D.1d bw, center
Fig.D.1e bw, right side

Red chalk and traces of heightening in white, 32 x 50.2; wm., an anchor in a circle, similar to Briquet 454-476.  Compared to the print made from it by Agostino Veneziano, to a pen copy of the drawing in the Uffizi, and to a copy of that copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (on which, see below), it can be seen that the drawing has been slightly cut on all sides. It is not clear how much has been cut from the bottom where, in Agostino Veneziano’s print, rocks and a plant appear in an area that would be below the present bottom edge of the drawing.  The whites of the drawing have oxidized.  It is also damaged throughout by rubbing.  The severest damage is at the left and right edges and along a center vertical crease that runs from top to bottom where the paper and in places only the red chalk have been eaten away by insects.  In the background the sketchy landscape details are probably additions.  They do not appear in Agostino Veneziano’s engraving, but they are found, more elaborated, in Marco Dente’s print (see below) and in the pen copy of Rosso’s drawing in the Uffizi as well as in the copy of it.  It is possible that these landscape details in the original drawing were added by Marco Dente as they appear in his engraving.  The pen drawing in the Uffizi may also be his and the model for his reversed print.  A much effaced inscription on the rock at the lower right of Rosso’s drawing can be partially read as containing the words: AVGVSTINVS and FACIEBAT, and the date: 1517 (the angularity of the “7” can be distinguished from the curvilinearity of the “8” that appears in Agostino Veneziano’s print). This inscription could have been placed there by Rosso for the drawing was certainly made as a disegno di stampa and it seems most likely that the broad flat-faced rock on which it appears was intended to receive such writing.  But it could also have been written by Agostino Veneziano although his engraving is dated 1518 and not 1517 which appears in the drawing.  A small banderole in red chalk is held by the nude old man at the far right on which appears the date: 1517.  This banderole is a later addition in a darker red chalk that partially covers up the original gesture of the figure that can be seen through this banderole and in Agostino’s engraving.  There is no reason to think that it was added either by Agostino or Marco Dente as it does not appear in their engravings. Its date repeats that on the rock in the drawing and not that of Agostino’s engraving.


Ferri, 1890, 125, as Rosso.

Berenson, 1903, no. 2428, as Rosso, and as combining “jaded fantasticality and monstrosity of form with palsy of hand.”

Clapp, 1914, 51, n. 4, as Rosso, showing the influence of Dürer.

Ferri, 1917, no. 14, with Pl., as unquestionably by Rosso.

Kusenberg, 1931, 12-13, 27, 134, 141, no. 34, 157, 183, n. 28, Pl. V, as Rosso and as showing the decisive influence of Bandinelli.

Kusenberg, Strasbourg, 1931, 110, as influenced by Dürer.

Berenson, 1938, I, 323, II, no. 2428, as in 1903.

De Witt, 1938, 70, under no. 511, as Rosso.

Becherucci, 1944, 26 (1949, 26), as Rosso, and as formerly attributed to Bandinelli.  She speaks of the influence not only of Dürer, Lucas van Leyden, and Hans Baldung Grien, but also of Michelangelo, in its use of light, and of Leonardo, in its old figures showing fear without hope.

Briganti, 1945, Fig. 27, as Rosso.

Barocchi, 1950, 35, n. 1, 37, 65-66, 72, 93, 192-193, 197, n. 1, 200, 210, 214, Fig. 159, as Rosso’s earliest datable drawing, and as showing Northern influence, especially of Dürer.

Chastel, [1955], 1978, 216, Fig. 81, as showing a winged death revealing a human skeleton to a group of emaciated figures.

Sinibaldi, 1960, 17, no. 86, as Rosso.

Freedberg, 1961, 544-545, as probably early 1518, as made as a modello for Agostino Veneziano’s engraving, and as showing the study of quattrocento art especially the late work of Donatello.

Carroll, 1961, 454, as Rosso, dated 1517.

Berenson, 1961, I, 470, II, no. 2428.

Briganti, 1961, 22 (1962, 21), speaking of the engraving of 1518 [made from this drawing, which he does not mention], gives its invention to Baccio Bandinelli.

Shearman, 1963, 218, n. 62, as Rosso, and as showing quotations from Donatello’s S. Lorenzo pulpit reliefs.

Panofsky, 1964, 232-236, as by Rosso, and as showing Death vindicating the reputation of Savonarola.

Poirier, 1964, 53, 55, writing of Agostino Veneziano’s and Marco Dente’s prints, interpreted the scene as the Vanity of Book Learning.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 37-47, 49, 53, Bk. II, 195-201, D.6, II, Bk. III, Fig. 15, as Rosso, 1517.

Forlani, Disegni italiani, [1964], XVII, 167-168, no. 28 and Fig. (detail), as Rosso, his graphic manifesto of Mannerism, and showing Northern influence.

Borea, 1965, Fig. 2, as Rosso, 1517, and as showing, rather than the influence of Dürer’s prints, expressive sources in Leonardo’s Adoration and Battle of Anghiari.

Shearman, 1965, I, 68, n. 1, as Rosso and done in 1517.

Shearman, BM, 1966, 158, as showing direct borrowings from Donatello’s S. Lorenzo pulpit reliefs.

Ciardi Duprè, 1966, 153-154, and n. 23, as Rosso, 1517; she believed there was another lost drawing representing the “Skeletons” by Bandinelli from which a now lost print was made (on this issue, see below).

Béguin, 1966, 58, as Rosso.

Borgo, 1968 (1976), 64, as Rosso, and as related, along with a drawing by Fra Bartolommeo, to a reappraisal of the orthodoxy of Savonarola’s doctrines ordered of the Florentine clerical authorities by Leo X in 1516.

Fagiolo Dell’Arco, 1970, 109, n. 12, as Rosso’s, and as showing an acute interest in witchcraft, sorcery, and necromancy.

Ragghianti, 1972, 44.

Ragghianti Collobi, 1974, I, 118, II, 198, Fig. 368, as possibly originally in Vasari’s Libro.

Dunkelman, 1976, 151-153, as showing a Donatellesque element from the S. Lorenzo pulpits; she mentions that Kathleen Weil-Garris also relates the drawing to Donatello’s Paduan reliefs, to the central group of the Miser’s Heart, and to groups in the Miracle of the Mule and to the Miracle of the Speaking Babe.

Shearman, 1977, 364, n. 8, as a formal prototype of Perino del Vaga’s drawing of the Descent from the Cross in the British Museum.

Barolsky, 1978, 101-102, as a caricature of death and as possibly conceived as a parody of a Pietà or an Entombment.

Carroll, 1978, 40, Fig. 25, 42, 45.

Borea, 1979, 365, and n. 54.

Borea, 1980, 247, under no. 609, 247, Fig. 609a.

Burresi and Calaca, 1981, 29, as showing the study of cadavers and the inspiration of Piero di Cosimo.

Ward, 1982, 158, 178, n. 10, 394, under no. 379, notes that it is generally assumed that Vasari was thinking of this drawing, which Ward recognized as Rosso’s, when he attributed the authorship of Agostino Veneziano’s engraving to Bandinelli, but he adds that this is conjectural and not proved.

Darragon, 1983, 33, Fig. 9, as a response to the humanism of such noble groups as those of the Disputa, the School of Athens, and Leonardo’s Adoration.

Lévêque, 1984, 167.

Dacos, 1984, 344, 353, as Rosso, and dated 1517.

Wilmes, 1985, 83-85, 106-108, Fig.9.

Wardropper, 1985, 56-57, mentioned in relation to the anatomy book that Rosso made in France.

Carroll, 1987, 11, 16, 17, 19, 37, 54, Fig., 55, 58, n.4, under no. 2, as Rosso, 1517.

Franklin, 1988, 324; speaking of the print made from the drawing, as related to Bandinelli’s drawings of a somewhat similar iconography.

Davis, 1988, 81, Fig. 22b, under no. 22, as Rosso, 1518.

Leone de Castris, 1988, 42, as an Allegory of Death and Fame.

Hamburgh, 1988, 595, supported Panofsky’s positive interpretation of death as it appears in this drawing.

Ward, 1988, 36, under no. 15, as Rosso, 1517.

Kornell, 1989, 844-845, Fig. 54, mentioned in relation to Rosso’s study of anatomy.

Carroll, 1989, 7, 8-9, 10, 14, Fig.1.

Massari, 1989, 50, 52, Fig. 9, as Rosso.

Fischer, 1990, 97, Fig.47, 99, under no. 25, as related to Fra Bartolommeo’s drawing of A Group of Men Discussing around a Skull of c.1500 (Rotterdam, Museum Boymans von Beuningen, Vol. M.179, Fischer, 1990, 98, Color Pl.), and accepts Borgo’s interpretation as related to Savonarola.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 12, Color Pl., 17-18, 20, 52, as related to the figure of St. Jerome in the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece [P.5] and to the old woman in the Los Angeles picture [P.24]; also as related to Rosso’s study of anatomy.

Miller, 1992, 109, 110-111.

Landau, in Landau and Parshall, 1994, 159-160, 161, Fig. 169, as Rosso, “as early as 1516,” the print after it by Agostino Veneziano executed in Florence as suggested by Karpinski, 1988 (see E.109).

Franklin, 1994, 134, 275, n. 50, as given by Vasari to Bandinelli, which must be taken seriously, and close in style to the Preaching of St. John the Baptist at Christ Church [RD.25] and the Old Testament Scene in the British Museum [RD.19], all of which should be placed with Bandinelli and his circle.

Ciardi, 1994, 17, 55, 56, Fig., 89, n. 6, 59, n. 114, as by Rosso, and related to a drawing by Fra Bartolommeo in Rotterdam (Vol. M 179); also the frontispiece of a book on anatomy even if also an allegory, referring to Donatello’s pulpit reliefs and to the Adoration of Leonardo, the founder of anatomical study.

Mugnaini, 1994, 123, as Rosso, 1517.

Costamagna, 1994, 33, 95, ns. 14 and 15, as by Rosso.

Brugerolles and Guillet, in Dessin en France, 1994, 40, under no. 15, as Rosso.

Marchetti Letta, 1994, 29, Color Fig., 30, as Rosso, 1517.

Caron, 1994, 30, n. 16, as by Rosso, and engraved by Agostino Veneziano.

Jollet, 1994, 77, as by Rosso.


The Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil, traditionally called The Skeletons, presents many specific similarities to the Fury engraved in Rome – strange and dark imagery, emaciated figures, and detailed anatomy – a print that Vasari knew was by Caraglio after a drawing by Rosso, probably done in Rome in 1524 (Fig.E.18a).  This attribution has always been accepted.  Given the closeness of Caraglio’s prints to the disegni di stampe that Rosso made for them, as known from the four that survive for the Gods in Niches (D.17-18; Fig.E.33Fig.E.34Fig.E.42), it is reasonable to assume that graphically the lost drawing for the Fury closely resembled the Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil.  The latter was certainly made as a disegno di stampa from which Agostino Veneziano made his engraving in 1518 (E.109).  It is also highly probable that the Fury was done to follow upon the success of the engraved Disputation, which appeared as a second print by Marco Dente (E.51) possibly about the same time as the Roman print.

The types of figures in the drawing and its densely filled composition find correspondences in many other works by Rosso such as the Assumption of the Virgin of 1513-1514 (Fig.P.3a), the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece of 1518 (Fig.P.5a), the Marriage of the Virgin of 1523 (Fig.P.13a), and the Madonna della Misericordia drawing of 1529 (Fig.D.35a).  Graphically the fine texture of the latter, while creating a more luminous atmosphere, is similar to that of the more dense Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil.  But closer is the Study for an Altarpiece of 1519 (Fig.D.4), with its very fine grained shadows.  In all respects the Disputation is identifiable with Rosso’s most securely authentic works.

According to Kusenberg and Becherucci, the drawing was once attributed to Bandinelli.  But since 1890, when it was first published, it has always been recognized as Rosso’s, except, perhaps inadvertently, by Briganti in 1961 who stated that Agostino Veneziano’s engraving made from it was after an invention of Bandinelli, and by Franklin, who thought it necessary to take seriously Vasari’s attribution of it to Bandinelli.  The attribution of the design of the print goes back to Bartsch (1813; see E.109) and seems to have been made without knowledge of the drawing.  But Bartsch’s opinion is very probably dependent upon Vasari’s comments.  In his “Life” of Bandinelli (1568, III, 426; Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 140, and n. 1), while discussing works that Baccio did in the second decade of the sixteenth century, Vasari states that Agostino Veneziano engraved a “carta maggiore piena d’anotomie diverse” on Bandinelli’s design.  In his account of the career of Agostino Veneziano (Vasari, 1568, II, 302; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 416), Vasari writes that after the death of Raphael Agostino engraved after Baccio’s design “una notomia che avea fatta d’ignudi secchi e d’ossame di morti.”  Although as Raphael died in 1520 Vasari’s chronology would in this last reference be slightly wrong.  Both of his statements would seem to be about the Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil of 1518, as Milanesi first said, for no other print by Agostino matches this description.  Ciardi Duprè supposed that Vasari was referring to a lost engraving after a lost drawing by Bandinelli and Ward indicated in 1982 that it is only an unproved conjecture that in the passages quoted above Vasari was thinking of this drawing in the Uffizi and this print by Agostino.  But in spite of these reservations it is quite probable that he was in fact thinking about this print and, by implication, at least, this drawing (it is not clear that Vasari actually knew the latter).  Hence, it appears that already in the mid-sixteenth century Vasari thought that the print, inscribed only with the engraver’s name, was based on an invention by Bandinelli.  But neither this print nor the drawing from which it was made are closely related to any work that can with certainty be attributed to Bandinelli.  There is no image by Baccio that is of this extraordinarily bizarre kind, nor is the very fine detail of the Disputation characteristic of his drawings.  If, then, this is the image that Vasari was writing about, he was wrong in thinking it was done by Bandinelli.  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist at Christ Church (Fig.RD.25) and the Old Testament Scene (Fig.RD.19) that Franklin would like to group with the Disputation as Bandinelli present their own somewhat different problems.

Although the date of 1517 on the small banderole in the drawing is not due to Rosso, and the same much effaced date on the rock may be due to the engraver, there is no reason to believe that they are not correct.  As this date is not copied from the print, dated 1518, one must assume that whoever inscribed 1517 on the drawing, if not Rosso himself on the rock, knew it to be correct.  Stylistically, this is a most appropriate date for the Disputation that is easily understandable as just preceding the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece, commissioned on 30 January 1518.  The figures of St. Anthony Abbot (Benedict) and especially St. Jerome could almost have come out of the Uffizi drawing.  Landau gives no reasons for thinking the drawing was done as early as 1516, which seems unlikely.

COPY: Florence, Uffizi, no. 14669F (Fig.D.1 Copy, Florence).  Pen and ink, 28.3 x 43.5 (max.), laid down; torn crease down center separating sheet almost into two halves; the upper right corner missing down to the center of the right edge of the sheet, including the shoulders and head of the nude old man at the right; the missing part of this figure and the wall of cut stone behind him are made up in pen and ink from Marco Dente’s engraving of this scene (see below).


Ferri, 1890, 31, as Bandinelli, and the model for Agostino Veneziano’s engraving (see below).

Ferri, 1917, under no. 14, as a copy of Rosso’s drawing, and the model of Marco Dente’s print.

De Witt, 1938, 70, as Bandinelli’s copy of Rosso’s drawing.

Beccherucci, 1944, 26 (1949, 27), mentions a copy by Bandinelli of Rosso’s drawing and probably means this drawing.

Barocchi, 1950, 197, n. 1, as a copy by Bandinelli.

Carroll 1964 (1976), I, Bk. II, 195, under no. D.6, 201, n. 8, as a copy of Rosso’s drawing, the model of Marco Dente’s print, and as possibly by Marco Dente himself.

Béguin, 1966, 58.

Borea, 1979, 365, n. 54, as by Bandinelli? and the model for Marco Dente’s print.

Borea, 1980, 247, under no. 609, 24B, Fig. 609b.

Dacos, 1984, 353, 361, n. 45, as a weak copy probably from the circle of Bandinelli.

Davis, 1988, 81, n. 4, under no. 22, as probably Dente’s for his print.

Massari, 1989, 50, 52, Fig. 10.

At the Uffizi this copy is now given to the Shop of Bandinelli.  It is in the same direction as Rosso’s drawing and in most of its variations from it this copy is identical to Marco Dente’s reversed engraving (see below and Fig.E.51) that is also the same size.  The drawing was made from Rosso’s drawing and not from either of the prints of his image.  Some heads have been changed and a few have been added, such as the one in profile between the leg of Death and the leg of the Devil just above the reclining skeleton’s pelvis, and the one under the arm of the nude old man at the far right.  Both of these heads appear in Marco Dente’s print.  But a group of heads added to the drawing in the distance at the left does not appear in the Dente engraving.  The background is an addition to the pen drawing and also appears in the print.  A few identical details of this landscape are found in Rosso’s drawing but they would seem to be additions for there is no sign of them in Agostino Veneziano’s engraving.  It is possible that the slight landscape indications in Rosso’s drawing were made by the draughtsman of the pen drawing before he proceeded to make his copy in which he enlarged upon these details.  The pen drawing, which is not by Bandinelli nor from his shop, gives every indication of being the model for Marco Dente’s print and may well be by this engraver.  There is a copy of the Uffizi copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (Vol. Eb 7; pen and ink, 27.1 x 42.9; inscribed at bottom center in the same ink as that of the drawing: de ?? mio 1531; Fig.D.1 Copy of Copy, Paris, BN) made after the Uffizi copy lost its upper right corner and before it was restored.  That section of the drawing in Paris must have been made up with reference to Agostino Veneziano’s print as it does not restore the doorway in the background of Marco Dente’s engraving.  But the left side and upper left corner of that doorway, which were not torn away from the Uffizi drawing, are copied in the drawing in Paris, and then extended to form an irregular mass of rocks.  For a painting and drawings made from the two engravings, see under E.51 and E.109).

PRINTS: Agostino Veneziano, E.109 (Fig.E.109a).  Made from Rosso’s drawing and in reverse of it.  The engraving differs from the drawing in a few details.  The top of the composition has been reduced and the bottom may have been enlarged and given a few rocks and a plant that are not in Rosso’s drawing.  The hair and beards of the figures in the drawing are, on the whole, more elaborately curled in the engraving.  The garment of the bearded man with his hand on his head has a woven texture only at the collar in the drawing but has this texture over his entire garment in the print, perhaps indicated or approved by Rosso (along with the added plants which appear in that part of the image that is cut from the drawing), if it was engraved in Florence in collaborations with Agostino (see similar pattern in D.3).  Behind the profile of this figure in the print is seen the back of a head with a full head of hair that does not appear in the drawing which may, however, be smudged here.  The man looking into the book that Death holds has been furnished with a hat in the print.  A hat has also been given to the man standing behind the Devil.  The feathers of Death’s wings are more detailed in the print.  These and a few other elaborations of details are probably due to the engraver, in consultation with Rosso if the engraving was made in Florence, rather than to another lost drawing that one would otherwise have to suppose he worked from.  In most respects the print follows the drawing precisely and the images of both are exactly the same size.  The print shows the scene without the landscape elements that appear in the drawing but these are probably later additions (see above).  Although Agostino was in Florence he seems to have settled in Rome in 1516 and thus it would appear that the print was made there, although this is not certain; it could have been made during an undocumented stay in Florence, as suggested by Karpinski and strongly believed by Landau.

Marco Dente, E.51 (Fig.E.51).  In the same direction as Agostino Veneziano’s print, this engraving appears to be derived not directly from Rosso’s drawing but from a pen and ink copy of it (see above) that shows several changes.