D.11 Seated Woman in Niche

D.11 Seated Woman in Niche


Florence, Uffizi, no. 6492F.


Red chalk over faint outlines in black chalk, 36.7 x 26.7; wm., crossed arrows, similar to Briquet 6278.  Inscribed in ink in the center of the lower edge: Il Rosso, cut horizontally.


Berenson, 1903, no. 2423, as Rosso and as derived from Michelangelo’s Sibyls.

Kusenberg, 1931, 135, 140, no. 29, as Rosso, around 1521-1523.

Berenson, 1938, II, no. 2423, III, Fig. 1008, as Rosso.

Mostra del Cinquecento, 1940, 58, as Rosso.

Barocchi, 1950, 130, 165, Fig. 180, as Rosso, from the end of his Florentine period.

Bologna and Causa, 1952, 60, as Rosso.

Luisa Marcucci, in Mostra di disegni, 1954, 24-25, no. 35, as Rosso, and as done either in his post-Roman period in Italy or early during his career in France.

Berenson, 1961, II, no. 2423, III, Fig. 1000, as Rosso.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 105-109, Bk. II, 224-229, D.13, II, Bk. III, Fig. 31, as Rosso, and as done very soon after his arrival in Rome in 1524.

Forlani, Disegni italiani, [1964], XXVII-XXVIII, 168, no. 29, and Fig., as Rosso, around 1526.

Hirst, 1964, 122, n. 13, as Rosso, as representing the Virgin Annunciate, and as possibly for the Cesi Chapel in S. Maria della Pace in Rome.

He points out, however, that the lighting in the drawing is at odds with that in Rosso’s frescoes on the façade of this chapel.

Hirst also suggests that the drawing might have been intended for an engraving.

Forlani Tempesti, in Primato del disegno, 1980, 193, no. 459, as Rosso, late in the Roman period.

Wilmes, 1985, 125-127, 138, 194, n. 241, Fig. 20, as very similar to the female saint in the Dei Altarpiece, and related to the Moses Killing the Egyptian and Defending the Daughters of Jethro and hence datable 1522-1523.

Carroll, 1987, 68, and n. 5, with Fig., under no. 6, as Rosso.

Smith, in Petrioli Tofani and Smith, 1988, 55, under no. 23, as contemporary with the Moses painting of 1523-1524.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 15, 17, as sculptural and architectural like the statues at Orsanmichele, Florence.

Franklin, 1994, 154, Pl. 119, 155, as Rosso and probably Roman, depicting the Virgin of the Annunciation, and as derived from the Erythraean Sibyl, but cannot be related to a known commission.

Acton, in French Renaissance, 1994, 308, under no. 74, and 309, n. 1. as Rosso, perhaps early 1520s, and maybe a Virgin Annunciate.

Ciardi, 1994, 94, n. 102, speaks of its sculptural projection.

Mugnaini, 1994, 108, Fig. 109, as showing the gestures of a Virgin Annunciate.


This seated woman is similar to the seated female saint in the Dei Altarpiece of 1522 (Fig.P.12a), to the figure of St. Apollonia in Rosso’s Sposalizio of 1523 (Fig.P.13e), to the young woman holding up her hands in a similar gesture of fright in the Moses Killing the Egyptian and Defending the Daughters of Jethro (Fig.P.14e) and to the Michelangelesque figures of Adam and Eve in Rosso’s frescoes of 1524 in S. Maria della Pace in Rome (Fig.P.17a).  Furthermore, the draughtsmanship of the drawing is clearly by the same artist who executed the “Virtù” Vanquishing Fortune in Darmstadt (Fig.D.6a), the study for the figure of St. Sebastian (Fig.D.7) in the Dei Altarpiece, the Seated Male Nude in the Uffizi (Fig.D.9), the Bacchus in a Niche in Besançon (Fig.D.18a), and the Pluto in a Niche in Lyons (Fig.D.17A), both of 1526.  These comparisons provide sufficient evidence in support of the traditional attribution of the Seated Woman in a Niche to Rosso, an attribution that has never been questioned.

Although Marcucci’s comparison of the drawing with Rosso’s Madonna della Misericordia drawing of 1529 (Fig.D.35a) can support the attribution of the Seated Woman in a Niche to Rosso the similarity of these drawings is not so close as to conclude that they are contemporary.  Nor do any of Rosso’s French drawings suggest that the Uffizi drawing dates from after 1530, as Marcucci also thought possible.  Barocchi’s dating is much more to the point for the drawing is most closely related to Rosso’s precisely drawn late Florentine drawings such as the Standing Nude Woman (Fig.D.5), the study for St. Sebastian (Fig.D.7) in the Dei Altarpiece, and the Seated Male Nude in the Uffizi (Fig.D.9).

But close as the draughtsmanship of this drawing is to that of the late Florentine drawings, the breadth of the form of the seated woman and the large planes of her drapery differentiate her from the seated female saint and St. Apollonia in the altarpieces of 1522 and 1523 and from the young woman in the Moses picture.  The conception of the Seated Woman in a Niche is obviously dependent upon Michelangelo’s Sibyls, as Berenson observed, especially the Erythraean and Libyan Sibyls.  The influence of Michelangelo’s frescoes, which can account for the major difference between such a figure as St. Apollonia in the Florentine picture of 1523 and the Seated Woman in a Niche, is equally responsible for the change that took place in Rosso’s conception of the nude figure between his late Florentine Moses painting and his early Roman frescoes of 1524 in S. Maria della Pace.  Rosso’s drawing is very similar to the figures in these frescoes, in both the breadth of their bodies and in the expansiveness of their postures and gestures.  The hands in the drawing, with their broad palms and widely spaced fingers, are very similar to the left hand of Eve in the Creation of Eve.  The very realistically drawn feet of the seated woman are most similar to those of Adam and Eve in the frescoes of 1524.  It is, therefore, reasonable to date the Seated Woman in a Niche about the same time as these frescoes.  However, the hollowness of the figure is similar to that of the figures in Rosso’s Florentine Sposalizio and Moses suggesting that the Seated Woman in a Niche is a very early Roman work that was done before the Cesi Chapel frescoes were conceived and executed. For stylistically the drawing does seem to be earlier than Rosso’s study (Fig.D.10) for the figure of Eve of the Fall in this chapel, where the study of Michelangelo’s art appears more profound.

Hirst has suggested that the drawing represents the Virgin Annunciate and that it could have been used in another part of the Cesi Chapel that is dedicated to the Annunciation.  For a discussion of this possibility, see under P.17.  It is because the style and the subject of the drawing are so closely related to the Cesi Chapel project that one wants to connect the Seated Woman in a Niche to it.  However, it cannot actually be proven that the drawing was made for this chapel.  Hirst also suggested that it may have been made for a print but the large amount of white in the drawing and the totally unshaded niche may argue against this.