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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Study for the head of the Virgin, to front, looking down slightly to left; four studies of heads (in a childish hand) Silverpoint, over blind stylus, on white prepared paper (the profile lower right in leadpoint) Verso: A standing young man, a study of a seated figure in the upper right Leadpoint (both figures), the head gone over in pen and brown ink (the main figure)


  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1502 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 257 millimetres
    • Width: 190 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Fischel was the first to recognize that this sheet, a drawing at Lille (Pluchart 442; Joannides, no. 34) and two in the Ashmolean (Parker, nos. 508a and 508b; Joannides, nos. 32, 33) were studies for the same composition of a 'Virgin and Child'. The pen and ink drawings in the Ashmolean depict the entire composition with separate studies of the landscape and the Christ Child. The drawing at Lille is a metalpoint study of a garzone in the pose of the Virgin. The British Museum sheet, also in metalpoint, focuses on the head of the Virgin. Unlike the figure in the Lille drawing, the head here was not drawn after a boy in the workshop, but is a study of a female head. In addition to the drawings recognized by Fischel, there are two other drawings that can be related to the painting. The first is a metalpoint drawing in Lille of the Christ Child holding a bird which is similar to the Child in the painting, but in reverse (Pluchart 480, B. Brejon de Lavergnée, 'Catalogue des dessins italiens, Collection du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille', Lille, 1997, no. 520, p. 181). The second is an anonymous copy after various compositions by Raphael including a sketch of the picture (RF 488, D. Cordellier and B. Py, 'Inventaire général des dessins italiens, V: Raphaël, son atelier, ses copistes', Musée du Louvre, Départment des Arts Graphiques, Paris, 1992, no. 28, pp. 36-7). The painting for which these studies were made was unrecognized until Pope-Hennessy identified it amongst Berenson's 'Homeless' paintings as a work in a private collection in New York. Shortly afterwards, it was acquired by the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California ('The Virgin and Child with a Book', inv. no. 141; L. Dussler, 'Raphael: a Critical Catalogue', London, 1971, p. 7, pl. 18; Meyer zur Capellen, 2001, no. 11, pp. 144-50). The head of the Virgin is a typical metalpoint study of Raphael's Umbrian period. The idealization of the face and handling of the metalpoint are characteristic of Raphael's training under Perugino. The picture is undated, but must have been made in the first few years of the sixteenth century. The present drawing and the Lille sheet both belong to what Fischel called the 'Large Umbrian Silverpoint Sketchbook', a group of similar drawings datable to c. 1502-3. The verso of this sheet, a slight sketch of a standing draped youth, is considered by most scholars to be a work of another artist. Drawn in black chalk with the head gone over in pen and ink, it is a much feebler drawing than one would expect of Raphael at this date. It may be a copy after one of his works by another Umbrian artist. Fischel suggested that the figure could represent a young magus in an 'Adoration of the Magi', but no corresponding painting has been discovered. Infrared imaging of the verso has revealed that there is a faint leadpoint drawing of a seated figure which may be an early idea by Raphael for the pose of the Norton Simon Virgin.

    The medium of the drawing has been confirmed by Satoko Tanimoto and Giovanni Verri from the Department of Scientific Research in a campaign of investigation of the Italian 15th century drawings linked to the forthcoming 2010 exhibition. The analytical methods employed have been non-destructive and non-contact ones: infrared and ultraviolet imaging, with XRF and Raman spectrometry. Lit.: J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London, 1876, no. 173; K.T. Parker, 'Catalogue of Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, II, Italian Schools', Oxford, 1956, under no. 508, pp. 257-8; P. Pouncey and J.A.Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM: Raphael and his Circle', London, 1962, no. 3 (with previous literature); J. Pope-Hennessy, 'Raphael', New York, 1979, p. 178, p. 284 note 7; J-P. Cuzin, 'Raphaël: Vie et l'oeuvre', Fribourg, 1983, no. 15, p. 23; J.A. Gere and N. Turner in exh. cat. BM, 'Drawings by Raphael', 1983, no. 18; P. Joannides, 'The Drawings of Raphael', Oxford, 1983, no. 35; E. Knab, E. Mitsch and K. Oberhuber, 'Raphael Die Zeichnungen', Stuttgart, 1983, no. 69; W.M. Griswold in exh. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Masterworks from the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille', 1992, under no. 52, p. 207; B. Brejon de Lavergnée, 'Catalogue des Dessins Italiens Collection du Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille', 1997, under no. 518, pp. 180-181; J. Meyer zur Capellen, 'Raphael. The Paintings. Vol. I, The Beginning in Umbria and Florence, ca. 1500-1508', Landshut, 2001, no. 11/I.3, pp. 148, 150; L. Wolk-Simon, 'Raphael at the Metropolitan, the Colonna altarpiece', "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin", Spring 2006, exhibition checklist no. 11; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 96, pp.300-1 (cat. entry H. Chapman).


  • Bibliography

    • JCR 173 bibliographic details
    • Pouncey & Gere 1962 3 bibliographic details
    • Sell et al 2015 54 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1962/3 Nov-Sep, BM, Raphael and his Circle (P+G) 1983, BM, 'Drawings by Raphael', no.18 2006 Jun-Sep, New York, Met Mus of Art, 'Raphael: The Colonna Altarpiece' 2010 April-July, BM, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo`, no.96 2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.96 2015 May-Jul, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'
    2015 10 Sep-6 Dec, London, British Museum, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Malcolm acquired from Addington 15.ii.1867 for £493-10-0

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Study for the head of the Virgin, to front, looking down slightly to l Metalpoint on grey-white prepared paper Verso: A standing young man Black chalk, the head gone over in pen and brown ink


Study for the head of the Virgin, to front, looking down slightly to l Metalpoint on grey-white prepared paper Verso: A standing young man Black chalk, the head gone over in pen and brown ink

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