D.3 (COPY?) St. Paul the Hermit

D.3 St. Paul the Hermit

1518 or early 1519

Private Collection.


Pen and ink and wash, 21.7 x 10.8, irregularly cut at the lower right.

PROVENANCE: Richardson, Sr. (Lugt 2183); Vivant Denon (Lugt 779); Rodrigues (Lugt 897); P. Mathey (see Galerie Aubry catalogue below); Pierre Debaut (as stated in a letter of 1972 from Claude Aubry); Paris, Galerie Claude Aubry.


Reversed lithographic reproduction in Monuments des arts du dessin chez les peuples tant anciens que modernes recuillés par le Baron Vivant Denon pour servir à l’histoire des arts, III, Paris, 1829, P1. 154a; inscribed at the lower left: Rosso del., and at the bottom of the page: Tiré du Cabinet de M. Denon and Muret Ft.;a description of the drawing, as St. Jerome, and the attribution of it to Rosso by Amaury-Duval appear on the page facing the reproduction (Fig.D.3 Copy, Lithograph).1

Weigel, 1865, 656, no. 7734, as St. Jerome, and as by Rosso on the basis of the Muret lithograph.

Dessins du XVIe et du XVIIe siècle dans les collections privées françaises, Paris, Galerie Aubry, December 1971, no. 95, as Rosso, and as representing St. Paul the Hermit.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 48-50, Bk. II, 242-204, D.7, II, Bk. III, Fig. 17, the lithographic reproduction, as St. Jerome, as a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso of around 1518; “Addition to the Preface,” 1976, viii, as copied and reversed from the drawing seen in 1972 at the Galerie Claude Aubry, Paris.


The figure in this drawing is similar to St. Jerome in the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece (Fig.P.5a), to the man at the top of the Volterra Deposition (Fig.P.9a), and to the saints in the Villamagna Altarpiece (Fig.P.10a), and also resembles several of the bearded figures in the Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil drawing of 1517 (Fig.D.1a).  His bony right hand is quite like that of the figure in the left foreground of that drawing.

But the saint is even more like the figures in Rosso’s Study for an Altarpiece of around 1519 (Fig.D.4).  The hair and beard have broad locks like the hair of the two young saints in that drawing, and there is a similar definition of knobby joints and muscles.  Like three of the figures in the altarpiece drawing the saint is so posed that his head is seen in profile but his torso is turned to bring the shoulders around to being almost parallel to the picture plane.  There is also in the manner in which his sash is tied a correspondence to some of the drapery passages in that drawing.

The light tonality of the drawing, so unlike the darkness of the Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil suggests that the drawing was done about the same time as the altarpiece of 1518.  In this respect it also resembles the Disputation Between Two Old Men (Fig.D.2).  But the breadth of the image and a certain ease and assurance that it exhibits, and which could give evidence of the influence of Pontormo’s art of around 1519 as seen in his St. John the Evangelist from Pontorme, would seem to indicate that Rosso’s saint is slightly later than his altarpiece of 1518, although probably not as late as the more clearly Pontormesque Study for an Altarpiece.  A date for the St. Paul the Hermit in 1518 or early in 1519 seems possible.  It may be contemporary with the lost original of the Disputation drawing or only shortly later because of the former’s possible Pontormesque reflections.

While I have always thought that the drawing looks like Rosso’s at times its penmanship and the placement of its washes appeared too uncertain to recognize the sheet as an original drawing. I thought it should have the quality of the altarpiece drawing, and it did not. As a copy it seemed always to have been made in the same media as the lost original, with the pen and ink and wash creating effects like those in the altarpiece drawing.  The earliest surviving autograph drawing in these media is the Throne of Solomon of 1529 (Fig.D.34), and looking back from it the St. Paul the Hermit indicates a comparable use of pen and wash. It is a draftsmanship that has no precedents, so far as I have been unable to find any, in the early sixteenth century or earlier, not in the media used but in the precise handling of them with both the penmanship and the wash describing the figure to equal effect. Looking carefully at the drawing of the right arm the handling of the several washes within the contour lines done with fine pen lines to describe its musculature appears masterful, even as Rosso’s first attempt at handling these media this way. It may well be an autograph drawing.

The age and garment of woven palm fronds of the figure as well as the rock he kneels on identify him as St. Paul the Hermit.2  In Agostino Veneziano’s engraving of 1518 (Fig.E.109a) of Rosso’s Disputation of the Angel of Death and the Devil of 1517 one of the figures at the right is dressed in a woven garment similar to that of St. Paul the Hermit but in the red chalk Disputation only the collar of this garment has this pattern.  It is just possible that the engraver knew this kind of garment from another drawing by Rosso such as the St. Paul the Hermit.

Sylvie Béguin brought this drawing to my attention.

COPY, PRINT: Muret, reversed copy.  (See LITERATURE above).  Lithograph, black ink on a tan ground, height of figure from ground line to top of halo, 21.6.  Carroll, 1964 (1976), II, Bk. III, Fig. 17.

1 The drawing is not listed in A.N. Perignon, Description des object d’arts qui composent le cabinet de feu M. le Baron V. Denon, I, Tableaux, Dessins et Miniatures, Paris, 1826.  It may, however, be the undescribed drawing by Rosso listed on p. 413, no. 59: “Six dessins de l’Ecole Florentine, dont un par Rosso.”

2 See Anna Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art, Boston and New York, 1896, II, 722-738. To prevent any confusion of St. Paul the Hermit with St. Onofrius, the former’s garment is always neatly woven of palm fronds while the latter’s costume is a shaggy accumulation of leaves and vines wrapped around his hips and groin, as in Signorelli’s Sant’Onofrio Altarpiece of 1484 in the cathedral museum in Perugia (Fig.Signorelli,Onofrio).