D.26A Reclining Male Nude

D.26A Reclining Male Nude

Study for the Figure of Christ in the Borgo Sansepolcro Pietà


Vienna, Albertina, no. Sc. R. 138, Inv. no. 104, R. 140.


Pen and ink, possibly over outlines in black chalk perhaps visible at the upper part of the chest, 22.2 x 38.3; center vertical crease and a horizontal crease at the right; laid down; wm.?  Faintly inscribed in black chalk at the lower left: Co PP Rubbens, and in ink an indecipherable inscription in the center at the lower edge.

PROVENANCE: Peter Paul Rubens (if the indication of the black chalk inscription can be accepted); Albert von Sachsen-Teschen (Lugt 174).


Portheim, 1889, 144, as Michelangelo, for his Pietà in St. Peter’s.

Wickhoff, 1892, CXCI, as not by Michelangelo although of the sixteenth century.

Morelli, 1892, col. 592, no. 28, as not by Michelangelo.

Symonds, 1892 (1893, I, 294), as Michelangelo.

Thode, 1908, I, 57, 248-249, II, 485, III, 1913, 244, no. 523, as Michelangelo, and as either a study for the Holofernes of the Sistine Ceiling or for a dead Christ.

Kusenberg, 1931, 135, 146-147, no. 79, Pl. XXIV, as Rosso’s study for the figure of Christ in the Borgo Sansepolcro Pietà.

Kusenberg, ZfBK, 1931-1932, 85, as Rosso.

Stix and Fröhlich-Bum, 1932, 21, no. 140, as a workshop of Michelangelo.

Delacre, 1938, 229, 333-334, does not find Kusenberg’s attribution to Rosso convincing and believes that the drawing is by Michelangelo.

Berenson, 1938, no. 2458E, as Rosso for his Pietà, but also as possibly by Battista Franco.

Barocchi, 1950, 247, as Rosso for his Pietà.

Goldscheider, 1951, Fig. 174, as Rosso for his Pietà.

Dussler, 1959, 304, no. 697a, as not by Michelangelo.

Berenson, 1961, no. 2458E, as in 1938.

Carroll, 1961, 450, as Rosso for his Pietà.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 161-165, II, Bk. II, 263-265, D.23, Bk. III, Fig. 77, as Rosso for his Pietà.

Knab, 1975, 148, no. XVII, as Rosso.

Darragon, 1983, 43, 46, n. 6, Fig. 22, sees the skeleton becoming visible to speak of death not yet at peace.

Carroll, 1987, 10, 24, 152-153, no. 51, with Fig., as Rosso for the Sansepolcro Pietà.

Franklin, 1988, 325, 326, no. 51, as possibly a copy; not obvious if drapery and head are lightly blocked in or traced.  Franklin, 1989, 817, no. 1, as autograph.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 126, as Rosso for the Sansepolcro picture.

Franklin, 1994, 170, 171, Pl. 133, as Rosso’s only surviving drawing for the Sansepolcro altarpiece; as a rather awkward drawing inspired by Michelangelo’s drawings for the Medici tombs.

Brilli, 1994, 121, Fig. Nova, 1995, 554, n. 1.

This drawing is related to the figure of Christ in Rosso’s Pietà in Borgo Sansepolcro (Fig.P.19a), painted there in the second half of 1527 and the early months of 1528.  The drawing is clearly not copied from the Pietà: the structure of the chest is different in the picture, the left hand of Christ is shown in the painting resting on his thigh but is missing altogether from the drawing, and the arrangement of the drapery in the altarpiece is not as it appears in the drawing.  The claims of this drawing for recognition as an autograph study by Rosso for his picture in Borgo Sansepolcro are identical to those of the red chalk studies for the figure of St. Sebastian in the Dei Altarpiece of 1522 (Fig.D.7; Fig.P.12g) and for the figure of Eve in the Cesi Chapel Fall of Adam and Eve of 1524 (Fig.D.10; Fig.P.17c).  All three drawings reveal the same particular interest in the varied nuances of light and shadow on the surface of a nude figure, and all three, although two are executed in red chalk and the Albertina drawing in pen and ink, are handled in almost precisely the same way with carefully put down parallel strokes and cross-hatchings.  The Albertina drawing and the study for St. Sebastian are also similarly related to the figures in the paintings for which they are preparatory studies. In each case the somewhat dispersed patterning of the chiaroscuro in the drawing has been more symmetrically arranged in the painting.  (The Cesi Chapel fresco is too damaged to make such a comparison with the study for Eve, D.10)  As a study for Rosso’s picture in Borgo Sansepolcro, the Albertina drawing would most likely have been done in the second half of 1527, before the execution of the altarpiece was begun.

Although Kusenberg’s attribution of 1931 is certainly correct there was at first some reluctance to accept it.  The drawing is only in a very general way related to Battista Franco’s Michelangelesque drawings and not so near to them as to support Berenson’s suggestion that the drawing may actually be by him.  The Albertina drawing seems now generally accepted as Rosso’s.1

1 Noël Annesley has suggested to me that the inscription on the drawing could indicate that the drawing is a copy by Rubens of Rosso’s figure in the painting.  He finds the Albertina drawing similar to Rubens’s anatomical drawings, which Michael Jaffé published in the Christie’s Sale Catalogue of July 6-7, 1987, 58, 83, lots 57-67.  To me, however, the painstaking draughtsmanship of the Albertina drawing does not resemble Rubens’s bold and rigorous penmanship.  Furthermore, the drawing gives no indication of having been derived from Rosso’s painting, which, in any case, Rubens would have to have seen in Borgo Sansepolcro, a town he does not seem to have visited.  Rosso’s drawing could, however, have influenced Rubens’s manner of pen drawing.  It would be interesting to know if Rubens knew the drawing was by Rosso, or did he think it was by Michelangelo, to whom it was attributed until Kusenberg recognized its relation to Rosso’s painting.