D.30 (COPY?) Allegory of the Immaculate Conception

D.30 (COPY?) Allegory of the Immaculate Conception


Hamburg, Galerie Hans.


Pen and brown ink and wash heightened with white over traces of black chalk, on beige paper, 35 x 21.2.1  There is a pen line around the composition that is cut from the top where a small band of the drawing is missing, as shown by the copy at Christ Church, Oxford (see below).

PROVENANCE: Germany, Private Collection (1993); Hamburg, Galerie Hans, as by Rosso (in 2010).

LITERATURE: Franklin, 1994, 244-246, Pl. 194, 293-294, n. 77, as possibly autograph, and done in Italy, and an alternative design of the drawing in St. Petersburg with a rounded top.


The figures and the composition of this drawing are closely related to Rosso’s style.  Adam’s muscular physique and complex pose identify him with the nudes in Rosso’s scene of the same subject that he designed for S. Maria delle Lagrime in Arezzo in 1528-1529 (Fig.D.32).  Similarly, Adam resembles the figures in the center of the copy in Rome of Rosso’s drawing of 1528 (Fig.D.29) for his Christ in Glory.  The wavy hair of the foremost figure in the latter drawing is quite like Adam’s.  It is even more like that of the figure at the lower right in Rosso’s Madonna della Misericordia drawing of 1529 (Fig.D.35a).  Several of the other figures can be compared with those in the Collecting of Manna, the central image of Rosso’s Design for a Chapel of 1529-1530 (Fig.D.37c).  The composition of that scene, with a dense group below and God-the-Father seated in clouds and surrounded by cherubs above, is quite like that of the allegorical drawing.  With the Virgin standing between seated figures whose forms are extended outward and then are turned inward, the upper half of the composition resembles that of the Christ in Glory.  But the lower half of the drawing in Germany, with its flexible figures of Adam and Eve, resembles less the rather static lower half of that altarpiece and more the early composition of it as shown in the drawing in Rome mentioned above and in the copy of another study for the altarpiece in the Uffizi (Fig.D.28).  As an invention by Rosso the Allegory of the Immaculate Conception would seem to have been done in the second half of 1528, at the time that Rosso was making his first designs for the Christ in Glory or only very shortly thereafter at the time when he was beginning work on the S. Maria delle Lagrime project.  The resemblance of the executioners in Rosso’s Stoning of St. Stephen of late 1528 (Fig.E.2a) to the figure of Adam also indicates a date around this time for the composition of the Allegory.

From a photograph the draughtsmanship of the drawing appears uneven.  In places, as in the figures of Adam and Eve and St. Jerome, the penmanship is precise and the wash deftly handled, while the pen lines under Eve’s left arm are uncertain in their intentions, perhaps, however, indicating changes made in the process of being made by Rosso.  The upper part of the drawing, which may not be as well preserved, seems less expert.  The face of the Virgin looks unusually pinched and her foot, which should appear on the serpent’s head, seems altogether missing.  At its best, the draughtsmanship of the Allegory looks quite like that of the Design for a Chapel.  Where it is weakest it recalls the handling of the Last Supper of 1529 in the Biblioteca Marucelliana (Fig.D.40A).  Like the latter drawing, the Allegory of the Immaculate Conception could be by Rosso rather than a copy.  It looks expert in places and elsewhere rather reckless, which could have been characteristic of some of the “multi disegni” that, according to Vasari (1568, II, 109; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 165) Rosso did in “Arezzo e fuori, per picture e fabriche,” many apparently for the use of other artists.  Earlier he made drawings, now lost, for Lappoli, Alfani, and Vasari (L.17, L.20, L.21, L.22).  Some of these would have been brilliantly executed throughout, like the Madonna della Misericordia (Fig.D.35a), but this need not always have been the case.  The drawing in Germany may be one of these cases where certain parts are expertly executed and other sections given less care.  It should be noted that a few details overlap the line drawn around the composition which could be an intentional effect as appears in some of the Roman prints of the Labors of Hercules (E.19-24) made from his drawings and in the central picture of the Design for a Chapel (Fig.D.37c).  This does not occur in the copy at Christ Church (see below), suggesting the greater authenticity of the other drawing, last noted in Germany.

COPIES, DRAWINGS: Oxford, Christ Church, no. 1155 (Fig.D.30 Copy, Oxford).  Pen and gray ink and gray wash over slight black chalk lines, with many contours gone over in a darker ink by a later hand, 36.4 x 21.6.  Inscribed in ink at the bottom right: Pasqualino; also so inscribed on the mat.  LITERATURE: Byam Shaw, 1976, I, 67, no. 126, II, Pl. 91, as very probably by Rosso and retouched by a later hand.  Franklin, 1994, 245-246, as a copy after Rosso of a drawing done in Italy.

Although Byam Shaw thought it an autograph drawing by Rosso retouched by a later hand, he did not know the other drawing, which would most likely have changed his opinion.  It can now be seen that the Christ Church drawing is a copy of the drawing in Germany or some other very similar unknown version of it.  The weak draughtsmanship of the Christ Chruch drawing does follow rather closely the draughtsmanship that appears in the German drawing.  In the Oxford drawing no details overlap a drawn border and the scene has been slightly extended at the bottom and sides; the top shows slightly more of the scene but it cannot be known if any details there overlapped a border line that is cut from the other drawing.  David’s harp has a double line around its round opening, the Virgin’s breasts and nipples are not visible, and the bishop beneath David holds an object that shows a male nude standing in a niche depicted on it, turning, it would seem, into a panel painting what in the other drawing is meant to be a book perhaps to receive an inscription.  The proportions of the Virgin and of Eve have been shortened, and the piece of fruit that Eve holds in the drawing in Germany can not be seen in the Christ Church drawing.  But the Virgin’s foot on the serpent’s head is more visible.

As Byam Shaw pointed out, the inscription on the drawing may refer to Felice Pasqualini, the pupil of Lorenzo Sabatini.  Pasqualini’s draughtsmanship seems to be unknown.  But the appearance of Sabatini’s draughtsmanship in his drawing in Edinburgh (Andrews, 1968, I, 111, D.904, II, Fig. 757) is not in kind unlike that of the Christ Church drawing, although the latter is a weaker drawing.  A note by Philip Pouncey on the back of a photograph of the Christ Church drawing suggests “near G. de’Vecchi.”  The darker and more effective penmanship is of the seventeenth century.

Stockholm, National Museum, CC VI: 13 (Fig.D.30 Copy, Stockholm).  Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white on brownish paper, 35.1 x 20.6; no wm.  The two red dots below the Virgin’s right arm are accidental marks of sealing wax or something similar, as suggested by Dr. Martin Olin, the curator at the National Museum.  PROVENANCE: Claude Audran III.  C. J. Cronstedt and descendants.  E. Langenskiöld, Gift to the museum in 1941.  LITERATURE: Bjurström, 1976, no. 81, with Fig., as most probably a copy after Rosso.  Franklin, 1994, 246, 293, n. 77, as a copy of a drawing by Rosso

PARTIAL COPY, PAINTING: Rome, L. Maranzi Collection.  God the Father with Two Angels, panel, 134 x 95 (Fig.D.30 Partial Copy, Rome).  LITERATURE: Giovanna Sapori, “Rinascimento tra Centro a Periferia: Il ‘Pittore di Francesco Eroli,’” Paragone, XXXVI, no. 363, 1980, 15, 20, n. 31, Pl. 22b, as by Giovanni da Spoleto(?).  Franklin, 1994, 293, n. 77, as attributed to Papacello, the figure of God the Father copied from Rosso’s drawing.  Sapori points out that the subject, format, and dimensions of the panel suggest that it served as the crowning element of a large altarpiece, now dispersed.  With God the Father holding a wand as in Rosso’s drawing, the scene below this figure must have been of the Immaculate Conception.  The angels in this painting do not match those in Rosso’s drawing, nor those in his other version of this scene (Fig.D.39), where the figure of God the Father is posed somewhat differently.  I do not know if the panel is an independent unit or if it was cut from a larger panel.  In either case it is possible that the remainder of the scene also reflected Rosso’s composition.

ADAPTION, DRAWING: Windsor Castle, Cat. no. 895 (Fig.D.30 Adaption, Windsor).  Attributed to Francesco Salviati, Narcissus and the Nymphs.  Black chalk, squared in red chalk, 24.5 x 17.4.  Popham, in Popham and Wilde, 1949, 327, no. 895, Fig. 171, as by Salviati, the composition recalling Vasari’s Allegory of the Immaculate Conception.  Mortari, 1992, 280, no. 569, Fig., as probably by Carlo Portelli, as suggested by A. Cecchi, and as related to Vasari’s Immaculate Conception.  Franklin, 1994, 293, n. 77, as attributed to Salviati, the nymph derived from the bearded prophet in the upper right of Rosso’s composition.

While the pose of the nymph resembles the prophet that Franklin points out, the figure of Narcissus is derived from the figures of Adam and Eve in Rosso’s second Allegory of the Immaculate Conception designed for S. Maria delle Lagrime (Fig.D.32).


1 This drawing was kindly brought to my attention by Elizabeth Llewellyn of Sotheby’s, London, who sent me a photograph, a transparency, and pertinent data on it in May 1993.  Franklin, 1994, 245, caption to Pl. 194, as 34.7 x 21.2.