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Saint Luke painting the Virgin
Vasari, Giorgio
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Vasari, Giorgio

Arezzo, 1511 - Florencia, 1574

Miniatura autor

Saint Luke painting the Virgin

1567 - 1572. Wash, Pencil, Pencil, Grey-brown ink on dark yellow paper, 264 x 214 mm.

This is a preparatory drawing for Vasari´s fresco of St. Luke Painting the Virgin in the Cappella di San Luca in S. Annunziata, Florence. In 1560 the chapel, formerly the Cappella Benizzi, was granted to the sculptor Fra Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli (c. 1507-1563), who had been inducted into the Servite Order at S. Annunziata some three decades earlier. He presented it to his fellow Florentine artists, including Vasari, Bronzino (1503-1572), Francesco Salviati (1510-1563), Bartolomeo Ammanati (1511-1592) and others, for conversion into a memorial chapel for artists. At an assembly held in the chapel on 24 May 1562, when the remains of Jacopo Pontormo (1494-1556) were transferred to the chapel for burial, the artists formally thanked Montorsoli for his donation. At the same meeting Vasari announced his intention to revive the old Compagnia di San Luca or artists´ guild, founded in 1349, and to hold meetings in the chapel. The constitution of the Accademia del Disegno was approved by the court on 13 January 1563, under the patronage of Cosimo I de´ Medici (1519-1574). Montorsoli began the decoration of the chapel himself, but it was left unfinished when he died and was buried there on 2 or 3 September 1563. Two years later the chapel passed into the possession of the Accademia del Disegno, and a contract was drawn up for the completion of its decoration. The chapel is consecrated to the Holy Trinity, an allusion to the threefold function of Disegno in the arts of painting, architecture, and sculpture. The fresco above the altar, by Bronzino, depicts the Holy Trinity. The three noble arts are represented by Vasari´s fresco symbolizing Painting, another by Santi di Tito (1536-1602) of Solomon Building the Temple of Jerusalem that represents Architecture, and a dozen statues in niches in the walls, carried out by various artists, that allude to Sculpture.

Vasari was awarded the commission late in his career, in 1573 according to Pérez Sánchez, and the fresco, in the opinion of both P. Barocchi and J. Kliemann, was completed by his younger rival, Alessandro Allori (1535-1607), a fellow member of the Accademia del Disegno. However, despite the fact that the fresco is listed under the year 1573 by Vasari´s nephew Marcantonio, an earlier dating has been suggested by F. Harb, who pointed out that initially Vasari was supposed to have painted the fresco devoted to the theme of Architecture but swapped subjects with Santi di Tito, probably around 1567. The Prado drawing, in his view as well as that of Kliemann, must therefore date from shortly afterwards, once he had settled on the theme of St. Luke and the Virgin. Harb believes that the fresco was probably completed by 1572, when Jacopo Zucchi (c. 1540-1596), whom he credits with having been involved with its execution, moved permanently to Rome. The drawing may therefore be dated c. 1568-1572.

The drawing is squared for transfer, but there are several minor differences between it and the fresco. The gestures of the Virgin and Child are the same, while the disposition of the putti around and below them is altered in the fresco. Similarly, the figure of St. Luke, who is shown as an older man with a receding hairline, has his right leg shifted back and is holding his palette at a different angle. Behind his stool is his attribute, the winged ox (one of the four apocalyptic beasts), and the group of three figures in the drawing was reduced to two in the painted version. Instead of interacting with each other, these figures in the fresco focus their attention on the divine apparition. Finally, the architectural setting is more elaborate in the fresco.

St. Luke was the Evangelist popularly believed to have been a painter, though he was described by St Paul as a "physician" (Colossians 4:14). As a result of this tradition, he soon became the patron saint of painters. Throughout the history of Western European art, he is represented painting a divine apparition of the Virgin and Child, the subject of this drawing. The Virgin holds the Christ Child at her waist and, as the Infant raises his right hand to bless the Evangelist, she points approvingly with her left hand at the picture he is painting. St. Luke´s composition shows the Virgin half-length, with the Christ Child extending his hand towards the viewer (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, pp. 92-95).

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Technical data

Inventory number
D01563
Author
Vasari, Giorgio
Title
Saint Luke painting the Virgin
Date
1567 - 1572
Technique
Wash; Pencil; Pencil; Grey-brown ink
Support
Dark yellow paper
Dimension
High/Height: 264 mm.; Width: 214 mm.
Provenance
Collection of Faustina Maratti (?); Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., The Collection of Drawings in the Prado Museum, APOLLO: THE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE OF THE ARTS, XCI, 1970, pp. 384-389 / lám. 3.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., I Grandi Disegni Italiani Nelle Collezioni Di Madrid, Silvana Editoriale D'Arte, Milán, 1978, pp. nº 5.

Kliemann, Julian, En: Giorgio Vasari. : Principi, Letterati e Artisti Nelle Carte..., Edam, Florencia, 1981, pp. 300, nº 60a.

Kraut, Gisela, Lukas malt die Madonna; Zeugnisse zum künstlerischen Selbstverständnis in der Malerei, Worms, 1986, pp. 72 / lám. 16.

Pedrocco, Filippo, La Grande Aventura del Disegno Italiano. A History of Italia..., Silvana Editoriale, Milán, 1991, pp. nº 85.

Ciardi, Roberto Paolo (ed.), Case di artisti in Toscana, Milán, 1998, pp. 59 / lám. 61.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de dibujos, V, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 406.

Härb, F., Catalogue raisonné of drawings of Giorgio Vasari, (en prensa), 2004.

Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, T.F. Editores: Fundación Amigos, Madrid, 2006.

El retrato del Renacimiento, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2008, pp. 332-333.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 92,406.

Turner, N., Vasari 'Saint Luke painting the Virgin' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 50.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 660.

Exhibitions +

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

The Renaissance Portrait
Madrid
03.06.2008 - 07.09.2008

Update date: 08-09-2017 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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