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Christ before Pilate
Siciolante da Sermoneta, Girolamo
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Siciolante da Sermoneta, Girolamo

Sermoneta, 1521 - Rome, 1575

See author's file

Christ before Pilate

Mid-XVIcentury. White lead, Pencil, Red chalk on grey paper.
Not on display

The old attribution to the Mannerist painter Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-1596) may have been suggested by the handling, with its extensive passages of white heightening, as well as the Michelangelesque figure types. Originally from the Ticino, Tibaldi spent his youth in Bologna, later transferring to Rome, where he spent much of his early career. Towards the end of his life, in 1585/86, he moved to Spain at the invitation of Philip II to complete the decoration of the Escorial. Thanks to this short activity, many Italian Mannerist drawings in Spanish collections are frequently found with old attributions to the painter.

Although it is true that similarly ponderous figures as seen in the present drawing are indeed found in Tibaldi´s painted work, the composition appears to be connected with Siciolante da Sermoneta´s early fresco of Christ before Pilate, one of a sequence of scenes in his fresco decoration of the ceiling of the Cappella Caetani in the church of S. Giuseppe in Sermoneta, which has been dated on stylistic grounds c. 1549 (Hunter, 1996, pp. 193-194 and fig. 37b). In spite of the multiple differences between the two works -the fresco format is a horizontal rectangle; there are at least double the number of figures in the painted scene; and the figure of Christ is clothed only in a loin cloth- there are a number of significant similarities. Among these is the almost identical arrangement of the platform and steps separating the two protagonists; the pose of Pilate seated on the throne in profile to the left, and the appearance of a helmeted Roman soldier standing to his side on the right (though his back is turned to the spectator in the fresco and he does not hold the fasces).

More convincing in favor of Siciolante´s authorship, however, is the stylistic evidence. As in many other of the painter´s drawings, here the handling is conspicuously painstaking, as if the artist were carrying out a miniature on ivory, using only the point of the freshly sharpened chalk and the tip of the finest brush to make his marks, rather than making a simple sketch. It is the stippled application of the white heightening in particular that betrays the lengths to which the artist has gone to achieve so high a degree of finish, somewhat reminiscent in effect of Michelangelo´s so-called presentation drawings. The end result is that the figures and their setting seem like sculpture, in low relief, all the components of the design, even the shadows, having an overall sameness of texture akin to the appearance of the grain in a wood carving. An identical use of materials to that employed in the Prado drawing is found in many of Siciolante´s other drawings, for example Standing Apostle, seen from Behind in the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1946-12-21-1); and St. Agatha in the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe e dei Disegni, Rome, which is datable c. 1550 (inv. no. FC 124183) (Text drawn from Turner, N.: From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International-Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, p. 100).

Technical data

Inventory number
Siciolante da Sermoneta, Girolamo
Christ before Pilate
Mid-XVI century
White lead; Pencil; Red chalk
Grey paper
Height: 289 mm; Width: 255 mm
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931; I. Brun</br></br>

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de dibujos. Dibujos italianos del siglo XVI (por Nicholas Turner, con la colaboración de José Manuel Matilla), V, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 100, 391.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 100,391.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 446.

Inscriptions +

Peregrino Tibaldi
Inscribed in pen and brown ink. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci. Un siglo de Dibujos Italianos en el Museo del Prado
25.10.2008 - 26.07.2009

Un siglo de dibujos italianos en el Museo del Prado. De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci
23.11.2004 - 13.02.2005

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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