Andrea del Sarto, Four Studies of a Child, a red chalk drawing with red wash

Italy, around AD 1520

Sketches for Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist

These studies for the infant St John the Baptist, were made for del Sarto's painting, Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist (Wallace Collection, London) in which John the Baptist faces the opposite direction. At the top left is a series of miscellaneous sums, possibly by the artist himself. This suggests that these are working drawings and that he put no value on them as separate works of art.

The four different studies were evidently drawn rapidly and from a model. They reveal the artist working on different problems. At the far left, del Sarto was interested in the muscles of the right arm of the Baptist. In the next sketch he positions the boy looking up and his arm down. Then, more carefully drawn, there is the upper half of the model, the head turned towards us, the arm raised as if lifting an object. This is a more dynamic and satisfactory pose and to the right he focused on the boy's head as he looks out directly at us.

Called Andrea d'Agnolo, he was born in Florence (1486-1530) the son of a tailor (sarto in Italian). In his Life by the artist-biographer, Giorgio Vasari, we are given a picture of del Sarto as a weak person, totally dominated by his wicked wife. Regarding del Sarto's work, however, Vasari had nothing but praise, calling it 'faultless'. This drawing shows how much effort the artist made to perfect his art.

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More information


N. Turner, Florentine drawings of the six, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1986)


Height: 258.000 mm
Width: 377.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1896-8-10-1



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