E.3 Agony in the Garden

E.3 Alberti, Agony in the Garden, II

Engraving by Cherubino Alberti, 41.2 x 28.1 P, 37.9 x 27.9 L with 3.1 margin L to P (New York Public).

Five states:

I. With no inscriptions in area of image or in margin below.

I bis. Inscribed in the middle at the bottom of the area of the image: Rubeus florentinus Inuen ., and in the lower right corner the cipher of Alberti, below which is the date: 1574.  (The existence of this state may be implied by Bartsch.)

II.  Inscribed with Rosso’s name, as in I bis, and at the lower right: Cum priuilegio Sni D . N . grec.p.p.xiii- followed by the cipher of Alberti, below which is the date: 1574.

III.  Also inscribed with: Romae before the date.

IV.  Inscribed with Rosso’s name as in I bis and II, and at the lower right: SniD.N.PP. Vrbani. viij, followed by the cipher of Alberti and below it slightly to the left: Romae. 1628.  Inscribed in the margin below: Illmo Principi Francisco S.R.E. Cardinali Barberino ——Cherubini Alberti Haeredes ex animi sententia. dant, donant et dicant.

Fig.E.3 (State II, Florence)

Heinecken, I, 1778, 95 (1574 and 1628).  Bartsch, XVII, 1818, 56, 17 (State IV with a remark suggesting the above state I bis).  Le Blanc, 1854-1890, I, 8, 31 (States I and IV).

COLLECTIONS: Berlin, 223-20 (III).  Florence, Marucelliana, Vol. XIII, no. 33 (I); Vol. XXXII, no. 30 (II).  Florence, 1573ss (II).  London, 1874-8-8-488 (IV).  New York Public, MERH (III).  Paris, Eb 13 (III).  San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts (II).  Vienna, It.I.37, p.14, bottom left (III), top right (IV); It.II.21, p.68 (III), p.69 (IV).


Kusenberg, 1931, 157, 159, as Alberti after Rosso.

De Witt, 1938, 32, as Alberti after Rosso.

Borea, 1980, 251, 252, no. 634, as Alberti after a drawing by Rosso done 1527-1530.

Buffa, I.B., 34, 1982, 135 (Vienna, IV).

Carroll, 1987, 41, 156-159, no. 53, with Fig. (New York Public).

Franklin, 1988, 326, no. 53, suggested that the background was added by Alberti.

Carroll, 1989, 17, Fig. 34 (Florence).

Franklin, 1994, 256-259, Pl. 206 (Florence), after a drawing by Rosso, not before mid-1528, the elaborate landscape possibly by Alberti, as well as the drapery, hairstyles, and facial expressions; the design possibly made for the Benedictines of the Badia of Sante Flora e Lucillo in Arezzo, a commission that was later given to Soggi.

Brilli, 1994, 27, Fig. (State II), reproduced across from a print of Piero della Francesca’s Dream of Constantinople in S. Francesco in Arezzo apparently to compare the angel in it to that in Rosso’s composition.

Alberti’s cipher on this print certainly guarantees his authorship of it and the inscription to Rosso is supported by the style of the image.  The Michelangelesque apostles recall the figures in Rosso’s Allegory of the Immaculate Conception (Fig.D.31; Fig.D.32), designed for S. Maria delle Lagrime in Arezzo in 1528-1529, while the radiance of light around Christ reminds one of that in Rosso’s Allegory of the Virgin (Fig.D.33Aa), made for the same project in 1529.  Christ’s wide sleeves are quite like those of several figures in his Last Supper of around 1529 (Fig.D.40A).  One apostle’s crossed arms resemble Eve’s in Rosso’s Allegory of the Immaculate Conception of 1529-1530 in St. Petersburg (Fig.D.39).  The kinds of figures in the drawing and the kind of both physical and mystical image that is made of its subject suggest Rosso’s early composition for his Christ in Glory, designed in the summer of 1528 (see Fig.D.27A; Fig.D.27B; Fig.D.28; Fig.D.29).  Sufficient stylistic evidence indicates not only that the design of this engraving is by Rosso but also that his design was made in 1528 or 1529.

One detail of the scene suggests that the composition was designed in Arezzo.  The strongly foreshortened angel flying into the scene may well be inspired, as suggested by Brilli, 1994, by the angel in Piero della Francesca’s Dream of Constantinople, which is also a night scene of a visionary experience illuminated by an extraordinary light (Fig.Piero).  Although Rosso visited Arezzo in March or April of 1528, he did not actually settle there until later that year.  On 24 November he received the commission for the S. Maria delle Lagrime frescoes (see Preface to D.31-D.34).  Stylistically, the Agony in the Garden comes closest to the designs that Rosso made for S. Maria delle Lagrime and to related drawings such as the Aretine Madonna della Misericordia of 1529 (Fig.D.35a).  It might have been engraved from one of those drawings to which Vasari refers when he says that “essendo persona cortese, [Rosso] fece molti designi in Arezzo e fuori, per pitture e fabriche…”  Busy with the S. Maria delle Lagrime project, it is doubtful that Rosso was already making such drawings in the last weeks of 1528 and hence a date in 1529 is more likely for the Agony in the Garden.  Its similarity to the Lagrime Allegory of the Immaculate Conception may indicate that it was done rather early in 1529, before the Allegory of the Virgin and the Throne of Solomon (Fig.D.34) also done for the Lagrime project.

With the angel in the engraving extending the chalice to Christ with his left hand, it is likely that Rosso’s drawing is reversed here.  It is possible that Alberti, who was from Borgo Sansepolcro, obtained the drawing directly from the person for whom Rosso made it, or from the heirs of that person.  Engraved in Rome in 1574, the print is one of Alberti’s earliest.

Franklin thought that the background may have been added by Alberti, as in the case of Alberti’s engraving of Rosso’s Stoning of St. Stephen (Fig.E.2b).  But the setting in the Agony in the Garden is required by its subject.  That the details of the landscape and clouds, of faces and drapery, and the character of the light rays resemble elements in other prints by Alberti, as Franklin indicated, is only to be expected as the result of Alberti’s translation into his engraver’s manner of Rosso’s draughtsmanship, and from a drawing that one would suppose was not made as a disegno di stampa.  Nevertheless, the imagery of this visionary scene and its eucharistic meaning are due to Rosso.

Franklin defended his suggestion that Alberti is responsible for the landscape by saying that “no such landscapes by Rosso are otherwise known.”  But landscapes play a significant and necessary role in the so-called Fury (Fig.E.18a) and the Challenge of the Pierides (Fig.E.25b) that Rosso designed and Caraglio engraved in Rome.  The evidence of the four drawings that survive for the Gods in Niches (Fig.D.17A; Fig.D.17B; Fig.D.17C; Fig.D.18a) indicates that Rosso provided Caraglio with complete disegni di stampe from which to make the engravings.  The six Labors of Hercules did not require extensive landscapes, but two, Hercules Shooting Nessus (Fig.E.20) and Hercules Killing the Hydra (Fig.E.21), show the artist’s skill in providing them.  The situation was different with Alberti’s Agony in the Garden, as Rosso’s drawing was not made to be engraved.  Nevertheless, it is most likely that Rosso’s lost drawing from which the print was made contained a landscape sufficiently well defined to meet the requirements of the story it tells, however much Alberti may have elaborated its details.  The use of light in the scene has a history that goes back in Rosso’s art at least to the Deposition of 1521 (Fig.P.9a) and the extraordinarily illuminated Marriage of the Virgin of 1523 (Fig.P.13a).