D.81 Design for a Tomb

D.81 Design for a Tomb

1539 or 1540

London, British Museum, no. 1853-12-10-842.

Fig.D.81b bw

Pen and ink and wash over slight traces of black chalk, with horizontal lines made with a stylus at the left and right of the base of the tomb above the plinth, 37.3 x 22.7; very well preserved, not faded at all; partial vertical center line in black chalk?; hole upper left, very slightly stained here and there, and creased down the center; laid down; wm.?  A five-line inscription appears on the base of the tomb, carefully lettered in majuscules but without meaning;1 on the mat is written: Another version of this of excellent Quality in collection of Ralph Holland, Newcastle on Tyne, and, in another hand: Boscoli (Antal).

PROVENANCE: An unidentified collector’s mark is in the lower right corner, possibly that of Count(?) Gelozzi or Gelosi (Lugt 545; see Turner, 1986).


Kusenberg, 1931, 131, 137, 142, no. 48, as Rosso, 1530-1540, and possibly related to the model for a tomb commissioned from Rosso in 1531.

Popham, 1939, 30, as Rosso.

Barocchi, 1950, 252, n. 9, Fig. 234, as too mediocre for Rosso.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 220-224, II, Bk. II, 339-342, D.35, Bk. III, Fig. 97, as Rosso, 1531-1532.

Carroll, 1966, 179-180, Fig. 11, as Rosso, and a late drawing, after 1536.

Béguin, 1970, 9, 92, and Fig. 33, as Rosso, and done in France.

Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 187, no. 211, 188, Fig., and in Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 43, Fig. 7, II, 65, no. 211, as Rosso, and done in France.

Béguin, “Maître Roux,” 1972, 102, as Rosso, and possibly done at the end of his life.

Raggio, 1974, 74, as Rosso, and as reflecting the lessons learned from Raphael in Rome.  Lévêque, 1984, 176, as Rosso and related to Michelangelo’s tomb of Julius II.

Turner, 1986, 152, no. 110, 153, Color Pl.

Carroll, 1987, 32, 354-357, no. 112, with Fig., as Rosso, 1539 or 1540, and as possibly for his own tomb.

Although the composition of the Design for a Tomb cannot be related to that of any work by Rosso, the character of its various parts and the draughtsmanship of it clearly indicate that it is a drawing by him.  The nude youths at the top of the tomb are similar to those in stucco above and to the left and right of the Venus and Minerva (Fig.P.22, I N a) and the Education of Achilles (Fig.P.22, II N a) in the Gallery of Francis I.  At either side of the reclining man in the drawing are two standing putti that resemble those beneath the side frescoes flanking the Loss of Perpetual Youth (Fig.P.22, II S a); they are also very similar to the putti in Rosso’s Allegory of the Virgin known from the original or very fine copy in the British Museum (Fig.D.33Aa).  Something of the contortion of the small figures on either side of the inscribed plaque can be found in the painted and stucco figures that flank the Death of Adonis in the gallery at Fontainebleau (Fig.P.22, III S a).  Broad and simple volutes like those that frame the Entombment relief on the tomb can be found above the Loss of Perpetual Youth and below the Twins of Catania (Fig.P.22, V N a).  Certain postures and gestures of the figures in the Entombment are related to those in Rosso’s Pietà in Borgo Sansepolcro (Fig.P.19a) and in his painting in the Louvre (Fig.P.23a).  The position of Christ’s legs recalls those of Christ in Rosso’s lost Pietà of around 1537 known from copies (Fig.D.71A) and those of Adonis in the Death of Adonis in the Gallery of Francis I.  Although not posed quite like any other figure by Rosso, the sleeping man in the center of the monument has, in his largeness and ease of posture, something in common with the sleeping woman in the Loss of Perpetual Youth and with the Reclining Nude Woman of 1539 or 1540 in the British Museum (Fig.D.79a).

Graphically, the Design for a Tomb is a somewhat freer version of what appears in the Throne of Solomon of 1529 (Fig.D.34) and in the Allegory of the Virgin of the same year (Fig.D.33Aa), where at least one putto has the kind of pointed head of two of the figures on the tomb.  Similar heads are found in the scenes of the Aretine Design for a Chapel (Fig.D.37a).  In its looseness and fluidity, and in the brilliance of its light and dark contrasts, the draughtsmanship of this drawing is even closer to that of the Pandora and Her Box of around 1536 (Fig.D.67a).  But this comparison also shows how much freer the handling of the Design for a Tomb is, recalling in this respect the draughtsmanship of Rosso’s red chalk Reclining Nude Woman in the British Museum.  The Holy Family in Milan (Fig.D.82) is also brought to mind, although that drawing is a copy, albeit an excellent one, of a lost drawing.

While the Design for a Tomb has elements that can be related to the decorations of the Gallery of Francis I and to earlier works by Rosso, it is not intimately or extensively related to any of them.  Architecturally, the monument is quite unlike the Design for a Chapel and the Design for an Altar; its architecture is also quite unlike that in any of Rosso’s other drawings and paintings.  It has a simplicity but at the same time a compactness and density in its combination of architectural blocks and sculpture that seem to displace the complexities or multiplicities of Rosso’s other architectural inventions.  Thus it seems likely that the drawing was done after those other projects and after his designs for the Gallery of Francis I were completed.  The Design for a Tomb is probably a very late drawing done in 1539 or 1540, about the same time as the Reclining Nude Woman in London and the original of the Holy Family in Milan.2

COPY, DRAWING: Newcastle upon Tyne, Ralph Holland Collection (Fig.Holland Copy).  Pen and ink and brown wash over traces of red chalk, 26.6 x 20.5 (maximum measurements); a slight tear at the lower left.  Inscribed in ink at the upper right: 139.  The plaque at the base of the tomb itself bears a row of letters in ink.  The verso shows several studies of consoles in pen and ink and bluish wash (Fig.Holland verso).  Originally, according to Mr. Holland, a small piece of paper was pasted on the verso showing a caryatid with a basket on its head.  PROVENANCE: a note on a photograph of the recto in the British Museum states that in November 1946 the drawing was in the collection of R. Frank and that it was attributed to Battista d’Angelo.  LITERATURE: Béguin, EdF, 1972, 187, under no. 211, recto as a copy after Rosso’s drawing.  Carroll, 1987, 357, n. 2, under no. 112.

The recto shows the same monument as in the British Museum drawing but with somewhat broader proportions and with the inscription replaced by a single row of different letters; the simple large plinth of the tomb is also missing.  The drawing is a rather awkward copy of Rosso’s original work.  The consoles on the verso have nothing to do with Rosso.  I have not seen a photograph of the caryatid.


1 The careful printing of this inscription looks very much like Rosso’s handwriting as we know it from his letter of 1526 to Michelangelo (Fig.DOC.9) and from the inscription on the Petrarch drawing at Christ Church (Fig.D.47c).

2  Kusenberg, 1931, 131, suggests that the drawing may be related to “une model d’une sépulture” for which Rosso was paid in 1531 (see L.37).  Although such an early date once seemed possible to me, that opinion has now to be recognized as highly improbable.  The Design for a Tomb has almost nothing in common with the architecture that appears in such early French drawings by Rosso as the Annunciation in the Albertina (Fig.D.43a), the Narcissus, known from a good copy in Turin (Fig.D.44) and from a print by Delaune (Fig.E.49), and the slightly later Petrarch drawing at Christ Church (Fig.D.47a).