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The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
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Pesaro, 1540 - Rome, 1610

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The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple

Third quarter of the XVI century. Wash, White lead, Pencil, Grey-brown ink on blue paper.
Not on display

By far the most prestigious commission of Trometta´s entire career was the fresco decoration of the ceiling of the choir of the church of S. Maria in Aracoeli, Rome. On 30 January 1565 he contracted to carry out the scheme, while an inscription on the vault indicates that he completed it in 1568. At the center is the large-sized, upright oval fresco of the Virgin and Child with Angels. To either side, this is flanked by Augustus and the Sibyl and Augustus Sacrificing at the Altar, two scenes that allude to the fact that the church is constructed on the site of the legendary Aracoeli (altar of the sky). The origin of this story is told in the legend set out in the Mirabilia Urbis Romae (c. 1140), according to which the Emperor Augustus had a vision of the Virgin and Child seated in the sky above the altar, while he was consulting with the sibyl on this very patch of ground; at this moment he heard a voice which said: "Haec est Ara Primogeniti Dei" (This is the altar of God´s First-born), and thereupon undertook to raise an altar on the Campidoglio dedicated to Christ (for an account of the iconography and reproductions of the decoration, see Gere, 1963, pp. 4-8). The ceiling decoration is completed with two scenes from the Life of the Virgin: the Birth of the Virgin (above the entrance to the nave) and the Presentation of the Virgin (at the east end of the choir). Further compartments with Evangelists, Virtues and Franciscan Saints occupy interstices within the two lateral spaces of the ceiling.

This drawing is probably a finished preparatory study, squared for transfer, probably to the full-sized cartoon, for the fresco of the Presentation of the Virgin. The sides of the two massive salomonic columns in the top right of the drawing appear in the fresco, as does the arched doorway at the back of the temple interior, immediately to the left of the columns. The arrangement of the composition is typical of Mannerist "conceit": the main protagonist, the Virgin Mary as a child, is the smallest figure in the composition (though she is at least placed in the center of the space). The infinitely more robust stature of the spectators to either side of the composition, whose movements are supposed to lead the spectator´s eye into space, dwarf the Virgin´s diminutive form.

Three further drawings by Trometta for this same composition of the Presentation of the Virgin are known, two in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich (inv. nos. 41596 and 6651; Gere, 1963, p. 16, nos. 28 and 25). Like the Prado sheet, one of the Munich drawings is a study for the whole composition, but the architectural background, as well as many of the figures, are different from the final result. The second Munich drawing is a detail showing the figures in the left foreground and, in this instance, there is a much closer correspondence to the fresco. The principal difference from the Prado drawing and the fresco is the standing woman, second figure from the left, who at this earlier stage occupied the place eventually taken by the bearded man holding a staff.

A third drawing, for the central group of the Virgin on the steps of the temple being greeted by the high priest and his entourage, was formerly on the London art market (London, 1988, no. 29). From the differences in the placement of the figures, this too seems to have preceded the Prado drawing.

Trometta, like Nebbia (c. 1536-1614), Federico Zuccaro (1540/41-1609) and Guerra (1544-1618), were among the most successful of Taddeo Zuccaro’s followers, adapting the master’s exuberant and highly capricious style to the needs of a less sophisticated, less aristocratic audience. This tempering of the master’s eccentricities and creative fire inevitably resulted in works that seem dull and routine by comparison. Certainly the level of Trometta’s draftsmanship, accomplished and competent though it is, does not have the same high caliber of many of the great sixteenth century draftsmen active in the middle years of the century (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. 134-135).

Technical data

Inventory number
The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple
Third quarter of the XVI century
Wash; White lead; Pencil; Grey-brown ink
Blue paper
Height: 245 mm; Width: 512 mm
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931; I. Brun

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. 134, 404.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 134,404.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 1853.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in pen and brown ink. Front, Lower right area

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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