D.70 Martyrdom of Sts. Marcus and Marcellinus

D.70 Martyrdom of Sts. Marcus and Marcellinus

c. 1537

Northampton, Smith College Museum of Art, no. 1959:32 TR 587.

Fig.D.70b bw

Red chalk over black chalk, the left saint modelled in a darker red chalk, 23.8 x 20.9 (with a margin at the top of 0.2 and at the left of 0.1), squared with a stylus, all of the squares, except the slightly larger outer ones, measuring 1.75; laid down; wm?.  Inscribed on verso of mount (from Siever, 2000, 36, 39, ns. 1 and 2): upper right corner, in blue ink: Dessin du Daniele Volterra Italie XVIe / Descente de Croix 10; along upper edge at center, in black ink: M Angelo B t; at upper right edge, in black ink: Daniele Volterra; upper left, in black chalk: 77.1; upper left, in ballpoint pen: 3:500 / s [illegible]; upper right, in blue fountain pen, crossed out in graphite: HC; at upper center, in graphite, enclosed with a rectangle: No 36 [changed from 35, the 5 erased and a 6 written in its place], the whole crossed out in graphite; upper left, in graphite: M; lower center, in black chalk: 23; and lower center, in black chalk: MAngelo Bti.

PROVENANCE: (from Siever, 2000, as above): Dumarteau collection, Dijon (unconfirmed); {Walter Hugelshofer (1899-1987), Zurich}; to {F. Kleinberger & Co., Inc., New York}, May 1958, stock no. 1534 (as by Francesco Primaticcio); sold to SCMA in 1959 (as Scene of a Martrydom by Francesco Primaticcio).

Two notes relate that Dumarteau is also given as Demarteau and that Hugelshofer was an art historian, collector, and dealer.


Prache, 1961, 1-9, as by Primaticcio, strongly influenced by Rosso, the subject of the drawing identified as the Martyrdom of Sts. Cosmos and Damian.

Anxiety and Elegance, 1962, 10, no. 29, as Primaticcio(?).

McAllister Johnson, 1966, 255, a Primaticcio working in the manner of Rosso.

Béguin, Révue du Louvre, 1969, 151, n. 32, as Rosso, from his Italian years, and as close to his St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor, in the Louvre, and to the two copies of the related drawings also in the Louvre.

Campbell, in RISD, 1973, 56, no. 62, as Rosso, and done in 1535 or 1536, the subject being the Martyrdom of Sts. Marcus and Marcellinus (the last two points suggested by me).

Edmund Pillsbury, review of RISD, 1973 exh., The Print Collector’s Newsletter, IV, 2, 1973, 35, as Rosso.

Carroll, 1975, 22-23, Fig. 7, 23, as Rosso, and done about the same time as the Death of Adonis in the Gallery of Francis I.

Carroll, 1978, 25, 29, Fig. 8, 31, 34, as Rosso, c. 1536-1538.

Carroll, 1987, 11, 31, 32, 306-308, no, 98, with Color Pl., as Rosso, c. 1537.

Franklin, 1988, 325, the legs and torso of the saint recalling those of Michelangelo’s Haman.

Miller, 1992, 111, commented on the use of black chalk as an underdrawing.

Siever, 2000, 36, 37, (Color Pl.), 38-39, the most extensive consideration of the drawing, as by Rosso, c. 1537, and as possibly commissioned by Cardinal Jean de Lorraine for the royal abbey of Saint-Médard in Soissons with relics of St. Sebastian and also of Sts. Marcus and Marcellinus.1

Two notes in the files of the museum indicate that in 1959, Panofsky, who suggested the Cosmos and Damian subject, doubted the attribution to Primaticcio, and in 1968, Professor J.Q. van Regteren Altena thought it was by Rosso.  This attribution is certainly correct, as a comparison of this drawing with Rosso’s St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor of around 1524 (Fig.D.13), and with his Madonna della Misericordia of 1529 (Fig.D.35a), so clearly indicates.  Graphically, all three drawings show the same fine contours and subtle shading in red chalk.  But the draughtsmanship of the Martyrdom drawing is closer to that of the drawing of 1529 in the almost total dissolution of form by the most subtly rendered fluctuations of light and shadow throughout both scenes.  Like that drawing, the Martyrdom is also executed in red chalk over very fine outlines in black chalk.

Although the Martyrdom compositionally reflects the structure of the St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor in showing a large foreground scene with another small one set in architecture further back in an upper corner, in terms of their drama, these two drawings do not appear to have been done at the same time.  The emotional fervor of the former is more like that of the later Madonna della Misericordia.  But the excitement of the Martyrdom and the complexity of the poses and interrelationships of its figures are closer to those of Rosso’s Enlightenment of Francis I in the gallery at Fontainebleau (Fig.P.22, VII S a), designed probably in 1535 or 1536, a composition that also has a large foreground scene and a smaller one with an architectural setting in the background.  The intensity of the drama of the drawing comes even closer to that of the Scene of Sacrifice in the gallery, designed, it would seem, between August and November 1536 (Fig.P.22, VII N a).  There is, however, a quality of resolution in the composition and drama of the Martyrdom, a resolution of the conflict between physical activity and highly charged feeling that is seen in the Scene of Sacrifice, suggesting that the drawing was done after, if not too long after, that fresco in the gallery.  For this reason it is possible that the drawing was done around 1537.2  It appears somewhat less clarified in its style and emotional focus than Rosso’s Pietà in the Louvre (Fig.P.23a) of around 1538, or than those works by him that can be assigned to the last period of his activity in the years 1538-1540.

The subject of the drawing is narrated in The Golden Legend in the account of St. Sebastian (see Chapter IX).

COPY, DRAWING: Frankfurt am Main, Städel Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, inv. no. Z425, attributed to Daniele da Volterra (Fig.D.70 Copy, Frankfurt).  Red chalk, with red brushwork (probably dissolved red chalk), 23.2 x 19.7.  PROVENANCE: Acquired in 1847 as “Daniele da Volterra” from the Verstolk van Soelen sale, Amsterdam.  A note on the mount gives John Gere’s opinion that the drawing is not by Daniele da Volterra.  A probably earlier note states: “S. Marcello al Corso?”  The drawing was brought to my attention by David Franklin.  I wish to thank Dr. Martin Sonnabend, Head of Prints and Drawings before 1750 at the Städel Museum, for information on this drawing.  Dr. Sonnabend added that the technique of the drawing may be a clue that identifies the draughtsman, who cannot be excluded as a northern artist but this may not necessarily be the case.  LITERATURE: Franklin, 1988, 326, under no. 98.  Siever, 2000, adds to Franklin’s opinion that the copy is by “a seventeenth century northern artist” the information that it has French inscriptions on the verso.


1 On the relation of the Cardinal and Saint-Médard and the remission of payments for the abbey in 1537, see Cédric Michon, “Les Richesses de la Faveur à la Renaissance: Jean de Lorraine (1498-1550) et François Ier,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, no. 50-3, 2003/3, p. 46.

2 Siever, 2000, 38, points out that the inscriptions in French on the verso of Rosso’s drawing and on the copy in Frankfurt further indicate that Rosso’s work was done in France.   But Dr. Sonnabend wrote me that there are definitely no inscriptions on the verso of the drawing seen with light through the sheet.