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The Virgin and Child
Arpino, Il cavaliere d'
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Arpino, Il cavaliere d'

Arpino, Lazio, 1568 - Rome, 1640

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The Virgin and Child

Ca. 1606. Red chalk on paper. Not on display

This drawing was formerly placed under the name of the French painter Jacques Blanchard (1600-1638), to whom it is traditionally attributed. The style, however, points directly to the work of the late Mannerist Roman painter the Cavaliere d’Arpino. He was especially fond of red chalk and his finished studies in the medium have a graceful, almost porcelain-like finish similar to that found in his paintings. As here, his painted figures are often animated and engage each other, and sometimes the viewer, with a penetrating gaze.

The drawing has been dated to the early years of the seventeenth century. No painting by the Cavaliere corresponding with the Prado drawing has so far been identified, but similar groups of the Virgin and Child appear in a number of his paintings, such as Holy Family, c.1593-95 (Musée Fabre, Montpellier) and Holy Family with St Francis and an Angel, c.1606 (formerly private collection, New York). As the drawing’s oval shape and relatively small size suggest, it may have been made as a pattern design for embroidery, perhaps to decorate some ecclesiastical vestment.

The Cavaliere trained in his native Rome in the workshop of Niccolò Circignani (between 1517 and 1524-before 9 October 1596) at the time when Circignani was decorating the third Vatican Logge, and it is here that the Cavaliere’s earliest known work, Abundance, 1581-82, is found.

He subsequently worked in the Sala Vecchia degli Svizzeri and in the Sala dei Palafrenieri, also in the Vatican, and in 1583 was granted a salary by Pope Gregory XIII. A more important patron was Cardinal Alessandro Farnese who, shortly before his death in 1589, commissioned the artist to paint a cycle of frescoes (now dispersed) in San Lorenzo in Damaso.

Shortly thereafter the Cavaliere visited Naples to work on the decoration of the Certosa di San Martino, returning to Rome in 1591. The following year, Clement VIII was elected to the papacy and the Cavaliere became his principal painter. From 1598 he worked on various projects at the pope’s episcopal church of San Giovanni in Laterano, in particular on the fresco Ascension, 1599-1601; on the basis of these works he was made Cavaliere di Cristo. In 1603 he designed the mosaics of the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. The Cavaliere continued to receive papal patronage after Paul V succeeded Clement in 1605, notwithstanding his arrest in 1607 by the pope’s nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese (Turner, N.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 164).

Technical data

Inventory number
Arpino, Il cavaliere d'
The Virgin and Child
Ca. 1606
Red chalk
Height: 226 mm; Width: 180 mm
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Röttgen, Herwarth, Il Cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino. Un grande pittore nello splendore della fama e nell'incostanza della fortuna, Ugo Bozzi Editore, Roma, 2002, pp. 267, 379, nºs 48, 136.

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. 182, 293.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 182,293.

Bolzoni, Marco Simone, Il cavalier Giuseppe Cesari d'Arpino. Maestro del disegno: Catalogo ragionato dell'opera grafica, U. Bozzi, Roma, 2013, pp. 316, nº 192.

Turner, N, Cavaliere D'Arpino 'The virgin and the child adored by a kneeling angel' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 164.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 187.

Inscriptions +


Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

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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