D.80 Empedocles – St. Roch

D.80 Empedocles - St. Roch

1539 or 1540

Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum, no. 83.Gb.261.

Fig.D.80b bw

Red chalk over faint traces of black chalk, outlines throughout gone over with a stylus, 25 x 14.8; evenly soiled gray and more so on torso at upper right of knot of drapery at groin, and slightly spattered with ink at the upper left and right and at the lower left; no wm.?  Very faintly inscribed in ink at the lower left: Rosso.1

The figure is identifiable as St. Roch because of his costume and the very faint pest mark on the inner side of his left thigh and simultaneously as Empedocles because of his gestures and, at the lower right, the shining crescent moon set just above the low horizon.  Furthermore, the drawing shows two large, roughly scribbled dots at the ends of two roughly straight lines that meet at a right angle immediately to the left of the figure’s right foot.  This configuration seems to indicate the direction and length of the shadow cast by the light striking the upright line and dot.  The upright line and dot are tilted to the left, parallel to the leftward inclination of the figure’s left leg, while the other line and dot parallel the shadow cast by the figure to the right.

PROVENANCE: Levallois-Perret (Paris), Jacques Petit-Horry; acquired by the museum in 1983.


Béguin, 1976, 77-82, Fig. 67, as Rosso, and as done in France.

Carroll, 1978, 25, 30, Fig. 9, 42, 45, 46, n. 8, 40, n. 48, 49, n. 49, as Rosso, around 1538-1540.

Forlani Tempesti, in Primato del disegno, 1980, 194-195, no. 461, and Fig., as Rosso, c. 1536-1537.

Carroll, 1987, 9, 11, 42, 44, 346-349, no. 109, with Color P1., as Rosso, 1539 or 1540.

Goldner, 1988, 108, no. 43, 109, Pl., as Rosso, perhaps late 1530s; but uncertain that the small circle on thigh is the pest mark associated with St. Roch; he identified the figure only as Empedocles.2

Franklin, 1988, 326, as having a claim as made to be printed.

Carroll, 1989, 21-24, Fig. 40.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 31, as Rosso and Masaccesque.

Miller, 1992, 111, commented on the suppression of the black chalk underdrawing.

Ciardi, 1994, 41, 44, Fig., as Rosso, noting its unusual iconography, and compares it with Giuliano da Sangallo’s drawing of Lucretius (Uffizi 155F).

As Béguin pointed out, this drawing is specifically related to Boyvin’s reversed engraving representing Empedocles (Fig.E.16) and to the copy of that print, in the same direction as the drawing but showing instead St. Roch, attributed to Gaspare Osello, both of which are inscribed with Rosso’s name (see below).  The draughtsmanship of the drawing is clearly Rosso’s, as Béguin indicated by comparing it to that of Rosso’s St. Roch drawing of 1524 in the Louvre (Fig.D.13) and of his Madonna della Misericordia of 1529 in the same collection (Fig.D.35a).  Equally similar to the Getty drawing in terms of its draughtsmanship are Rosso’s study in Edinburgh (Fig.D.10) for the figure of Eve in one of the frescoes of 1524 in S. Maria della Pace in Rome, his Pluto in a Niche (Fig.D.17A), and the three other surviving drawings made for Caraglio’s Gods in Niches of 1526.  But even more closely related to it graphically are the Dream of Hercules of 1535 in the Louvre (Fig.D.78a) and the Judith and Holofernes in Los Angeles (Fig.D.84a), very possibly done in the last year of Rosso’s life.  All of these drawings are executed in red chalk, and five of them are, like the Empedocles-St. Roch, done over traces of black chalk.

As the Empedocles-St. Roch was engraved by Boyvin, it is likely from this fact alone that the drawing was done by Rosso in France and stylistic comparisons prove this to be the case.  The large figure with his broad gestures is closely related to the figures in Rosso’s Enlightenment of Francis I in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22, VII S a), a fresco probably designed in 1535 or 1536.  He also resembles in his form and pose the two main figures in the Venus and Minerva fresco in the gallery (Fig.P.22, I N a), conceived about the same time.  One might, therefore, date the Empedocles-St. Roch in these years.  But the figure has also a certain weighty dignity and grand simplicity that suggest the possibility that the drawing was done later.  In these respects, there is a resemblance to the figure of Judith in the Los Angeles drawing and to the figure of the Virgin in the painting also in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Fig.P.24a).  The figures in the copy in Düsseldorf of Rosso’s Annunciation (Fig.D.83) also come to mind.  These undocumented and undated drawings and the undocumented and undated painting seem to belong to a group of works that were done after Rosso’s activity in the Gallery of Francis I was over, for none of them is related to the decorations in that gallery or to what Rosso did earlier as much as they are related to each other.  Three of them, the Los Angeles painting, the Judith drawing, and the Empedocles-St. Roch, share as well a similar kind of ambivalent iconography, where the figures seem to have more than one identity.  This is also true of Rosso’s apparently late Three Fates, Nude, engraved by Pierre Milan (Fig.E.105), where the young Fates look very much like the three Graces.  It is therefore very likely that the Empedocles-St. Roch is a very late work by Rosso, a possibility supported by its draughtsmanship that is most similar to that of the Dream of Hercules and the Judith and Holofernes.  It is probable that the drawing was done in 1539 or 1544.

Although the stylus marks throughout seem to indicate that Boyvin used the drawing to make his engraving, the changes he made may also indicate that Rosso had other intentions for his work than as a disegno di stampa (see Franklin, above).

COPIES, PRINTS: Boyvin, E.16 (Fig.E.16).  Engraving, as Empedocles.

Attributed to Gaspare Osello, E.106 (see under E.16) (Fig.E.106).  Engraving after Boyvin, as St. Roch.


1 Possibly by the same hand as the inscription on the Reclining Nude Woman in London (D.79).  The Getty website refers to this inscription as Rosso’s signature.

2 As the figure is dressed as St. Roch generally is, with cloak and hat and especially the hitched-up skirt revealing his bare inner thigh, the probability that the regular oval mark on his thigh is St. Roch’s always present pest mark is very high; it would be difficult to imagine how such a meaningful mark in relation to St. Roch could accidently have appeared just here on this drawing.