D.13 St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor

D.13 St. Roch Distributing His Inheritance to the Poor


Paris, Louvre, RF 52966.


ADD Fig.13b, color

Fig.D.13c, Coat-of-Arms

Red chalk (red-orange in tone), many of the lines of the architecture as well as a few other straight lines first ruled with a stylus, 23.6 x 20.5, including a margin of 0.2 cm. above and another of 0.1 cm. at the right; laid down; wm.?; a gray horizontal center line where soiled probably in an old crease.  The drawing is quite pale.  Inscribed on the verso, seen through the drawing and backing, in pen and brown ink: Il(?) Rosso Fiorentino.

PROVENANCE: Jonathan Richardson Senior (Lugt 2184); John Barnard (according to Robert Lebel, André de Hévésy said that Barnard’s mark, Lugt 1419 or 1420, is on the verso, now covered); Joshua Reynolds (Lugt 2364); A. M. Champernowne (Lugt 153); André de Hévésy, Paris; acquired by Robert Lebel from de Hévésy around 1955; Jean-Jacques Lebel; acquired by the Louvre in 2001.


Kusenberg, 1931, 137, 144, no. 64, Pl. LXXII, as Rosso, 1527-1530, and wrongly as in black chalk.

Kusenberg, Strasbourg, 1931, 110, as showing the influence of Dürer.

Berenson, 1938, no. 2458D, as Rosso, and wrongly as in black chalk.

Barocchi, 1950, 209-210, Fig. 187, as Rosso, showing the influence of Dürer, and as done in the post-Roman period in Italy; also wrongly as in black chalk.

Berenson, 1961, no. 2458D, as Rosso, and wrongly as in black chalk.

L’École de Fontainebleau, exh. cat., L’Oeil, Galerie d’Art, Paris, Dec. 1963 – Feb. 1964, 16, no. 26, as Rosso, from his post-Roman period in Italy, as showing in the center the Orsini arms, and correctly as done in red chalk.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 131-136, 146-147, Bk. II, 243-246, II, Bk. III, Fig. 68, as Rosso, early 1527, and as possibly made for a print; “Addition to the Preface,” 1976, viii, as done in red chalk.

Carroll, 1967, 299, Fig. 3, as Rosso, 1524-1527.

Béguin, Revue du Louvre, 1969, 151, n. 32, as Rosso, as done in Italy.

Béguin, 1976, 77, as Rosso, in his Roman period.

Carroll, 1987, 22, 68-71, no. 7 with Fig., as Rosso, 1524.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 30, as an early Roman drawing by Rosso, the central figure showing a knowledge of the image of Concordia on the verso of many ancient coins.

Franklin, 1994, 155, 285, n. 122, its dating far from certain and may have been produced in France.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, under no. 15.

Ciardi, 1994, 31, 33, 85, Fig., the architectural background from Donatello.

Cordellier, 2003, 16, 18, 19, Fig. 2, reviews the critical history of the drawing’s style and its relation to the Orsini family, suggesting that it may have been done in France.

The drawing is related in a variety of ways to a number of works that Rosso designed in Rome.  Its setting contains many of the same elements of his Battle of the Romans and the Sabines (Fig.E.48, Paris), designed early in 1527 and engraved by Caraglio: a flight of stairs, a statue, a view into the interior of a room, and a glimpse of a receding street.  Physically, St. Roch resembles the nudes in that engraving.  He is also very similar to some of the Gods in Niches of 1526, especially Vulcan (Fig.E.44).  The saint’s head in profile is almost identical to that of the angel at the right in Rosso’s Dead Christ of 1525 or 1526 in Boston (Fig.P.18c).  At the upper left the small nude with his arms crossed over his chest is found also in Rosso’s Challenge of the Pierides, engraved by Caraglio, probably in the second half of 1524 (Fig.E.25a).

Graphically, the drawing, with its precise contours and rather dry and regular shadows, resembles the study of 1522 (Fig.D.7) for the figure of St. Sebastian of the Dei Altarpiece, the study of 1524 for Eve (Fig.D.10) of the Cesi Chapel Fall, and the four drawings of 1526 for the Gods in Niches (Fig.D.17A; Fig.D.17B; Fig.D.17C; Fig.D.18a).  So similar is the St. Roch to these drawings that it must also be recognized as Rosso’s.

As the works with which this drawing is most similar are Roman in date it is only reasonable to conclude that it was done at the same time.  Furthermore, the three episodes in the drawing placed in an architectural setting as well as the pose of St. Roch reflect Michelangelos’s Hanging of Haman, while again in its architectural setting and also in its infirm figures it suggests the study of the tapestries designed by Raphael, in particular the Sacrifice at Lystra and the Healing of the Lame Man.  In addition to this stylistic evidence the drawing shows on the pedestal of the statue a coat-of-arms of the Orsini family that also indicates a Roman origin, a detail that Franklin ignores when he remarks that the drawing may have been done in France.1  In the summer of 1524, some time after June 24, according to Cellini, Rosso stayed with the Count of Anguillara, who seems to have been Carlo di Virginio Orsini, at his place at Cerveteri.2

Rosso probably went to Cerveteri to escape the plague that was in Rome into July of 1524.3  Given the subject Rosso’s drawing and of another of the series to which it belongs (Fig.D.14A; Fig.D.14B) showing St. Roch Visiting the Plague-Stricken it is very likely that this series was made in response to the plague of 1524.  It is very possible that the St. Roch drawings were designed in the summer of that year, after the Cesi Chapel frescoes were begun but before they were completed in the early autumn of 1524.  The three St. Roch drawings, of which two are known only from copies (see below), do not exhibit the almost unbounded Michelangelism of the Cesi Chapel frescoes, showing instead a more thorough accommodation of Michelangelo’s art both with Raphael’s and with those aspects of Rosso’s own art that he had developed in Florence and which are related to Pontormo’s and to Masaccio’s art.4

The drawings may have been made for a series of paintings for a site in Rome, but possibly instead for an Orsini location elsewhere, such as Cerveteri, in thanks to the Count of Anguillara for Rosso’s stay there in the summer of 1524..  Although I once thought that the St. Roch drawings might have been made for a series of prints, the coat-of-arms on the one original drawing in the Louvre would seem to argue against this possibility and indicate instead a more particular intention related specifically to the Orsini.  On the subject of the drawing, see Voragine, V, 1900, 2-3, and Réau, III, 3, 1959, 1155-1156, 1160.

Franklin’s thought that the drawing may have been done in France seems to ignore the appearance of an Orsini coat-of-arms on it.5  Rosso’s Martyrdom of Sts. Marcus and Marcellinus (Fig.D.70a) shows how the artist enlarged upon what he had created in his St. Roch drawings in Rome (see also Fig.D.14A, Fig.D.14B and Fig.D.15a) to create an image in France of considerably greater richness, thematically, stylistically, and emotionally.  The Unity of the State in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22,VI S a) might be seen as a similar re-imagining of an earlier work, but see here Masaccio’s Tribute Money, suggesting again the quattrocentresque sources of some of Rosso’s French narrative pictures.

COPY: Paris, Louvre, Inv. 10316 (Fig.D.13 Copy).  Pen and ink, point of brush, and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, lightly squared in black chalk, 22.7 x 20; wm.?  Inscribed in ink at the lower edge left and center: Giannantonio Regillo da Pordenone (see Lugt, Supplément, 3005 c, d); on the back of the mount: d’après Rosso, A. E. Popham.  PROVENANCE: Saint-Morys.  LITERATURE: Bettagno, 1966, 27, 103, no. 142, under Pordenone, but stating that according to G. Fioco the drawing is by Altobello Meloni.  Carroll, 1967, 298-299, n. 9, as a copy of the former Lebel (now Louvre) drawing.  Saint-Morys, 1987, III, inv. no. 10316, giving Morel d’Arleaux’s (3281) attribution to Pordenone.  Carroll, 1987, 70, 71, under no. 7, as a copy after Rosso.  The drawing is among the anonymous drawings in the Louvre.  Although not by Pordenone, as the old inscription states, this attribution as well as that to Altobello Meloni would seem to be correct in indicating the non-Central Italian origin of this copy. It is by the same hand as the other copies in the Louvre of two lost drawings by Rosso of a series of scenes from the life of St. Roch, Fig.D.14B, Fig.D.15a.

1 This coat-of-arms is identified as belonging to the Orsini family in Celletti, 1963, Pl. I.  The horizontal area below the small circle (rosette) and above the diagonal stripes in the upper right and lower left quadrants would be for an eel, as appears in Celletti’s plate, referring to Anguillara, which, according to Celletti, 40, was purchased, along with Cerverteri and other places, by Virginio Orsini on 3 September 1492. The same Orsini, on 12 September 1493, gave the castle of Cerveteri and other places to his natural son, Carlo. The V in the upper left and lower right quadrants may refer to Virginio’s branch of the Orsini family.  Upon the death of Virginio in 1497, his legitimized son Carlo became the Count of Anguillara (Celletti, 49). See also Briganti Colonna, 1955, Pls. I-II, 29, 208-209, where Virginio is referred to as Gentil Virginio. See Panunzi, Bruno, “Una memoir di Gentil Viginio Orsini Conte dell’Anguillara,” in Bracciano e gli Orsini, Tramonto di un progetto feudale,” in Il ‘400 a Roma e nel Lazio, Rome, De Luca Editore, 1981, Website, with an illustration of the the count’s coat-of-arms (Fig.Arms,Gentil Virginio Orsini) identical to those in Rosso’s drawing.

2See n. 1, and P.16, the catalogue entry for Rosso’s Portrait of a Man with a Helmet of around 1524, in Liverpool, which may be a portrait of Carlo di Virginio Orsini.

3 See Pastor, IX, 1914, 258, n. 3.

4 The view of the street at the upper right of the Louvre drawing and the lame man at the lower left may indicate that Rosso had in mind Masaccio’s frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, especially the St. Peter Healing the Sick with his Shadow and the St. Peter Distributing Alms.  For a detail specifically related to Pontormo’s art, see D.14A, B.

5 Cordellier would wish the drawing to have been done in France, where Cellini reported he had beeen employed by “il conte dell’Anguillara,” probably Carlo, the son of Virginio (see Cellini, 1843, I, 231, and n. 1), along with several other Italian noblemen.  Stylistically, the drawing seems to me too closely related to its Florentine and Roman sources that are altered significantly in Rosso’s French works. The Carlo identified by Cordellier is most likely the same Carlo mentioned here in n.1.