- Museum number
The Descent from the Cross; the body of Christ lowered to the ground, a group of figures surrounding including St John at left and the Virgin swooning at r, a man descending the ladder at centre
- Production date
- 1523 (circa)
Height: 320 millimetres
Width: 270 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The attribution to Perino is due to A.E. Popham who connected this with Perino's painting of the Deposition in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. This was destroyed by a flood in 1530 and only two fragments of the work survive in Hampton Court showing the crucified thieves (Parma Armani figs. 42-3). The painting was executed for the chapel of a protonotary apostolic, who Wolk suggested might be Giovanni Battista Branconio dell'Aquila. The patron is depicted kneeling to the l. and, if Wolk's identification is correct, his name saint John the Baptist points to the Dead Christ. The function of the drawing is not entirely clear as it would appear from the high finish and lack of alterations to be the finished design, but if so Perino made alterations while working on the panel as the Hampton Court fragments and Vasari's description show that it does not correspond to the finished work. The drawing was dated to the beginning of Perino's Roman period c. 1516-19 by Popham and Gnann, while Pouncey and Gere followed by Parma Armani place it slightly later c. 1523. In the Louvre there is a squared red chalk derived from the BM study which Bernice Davidson thought might be by Perino (Wolk fig 2).
Lit.: A.E. Popham, 'On some works by Perino del Vaga', in 'The Burlington Magazine', LXXXVI, March 1945, p. 63; P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and his circle', London, 1962, no. 157, p. 92; E. Parma Armani, 'Perino del Vaga, l'anello mancante', Genoa, 1986, p. 43, fig. 41; J.A. Gere, in exhib. cat., New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Raphael and his circle: from British and North American collections', 1987, no. 69; L. Wolk, 'La "Deposizione" perduta di Perin del Vaga per Santa Maria sopra Minerva', in M. Fagiolo (ed.), 'Raffaello e l'Europa', Rome, 1990, p. 237, fig. 1; A. Gnann, in exhib. cat. (K. Oberhuber and A. Gnann eds), Mantua, Palazzo Te and Vienna, Albertina, 'Roma e lo stile classico di Raffaello', 1999, no. 122; E. Parma, in exhib. cat. (E. Parma ed.), Mantua, Palazzo Te, Perino del Vaga: tra Raffaello e Michelangelo', 2001, no. 31 (with further literature)
Pouncey & Gere 1962
Attributed in the Woodburn Sale catalogue to Parmigianino, and later placed for no ascertainable reason under the name of Giulio Clovio. The correct attribution to Perino was due to Popham, who further noticed the connection between 1854,0628.13 and two panels at Hampton Court of the two crucified thieves (repr. Popham, op. cit., p. 61) which are obviously fragments of a 'Crucifixion' or 'Descent from the Cross'. These were acquired by Charles I from Italy, and the attribution of them to Perino goes back at least to that period. The fragment with the unrepentant thief includes a piece of hanging drapery and the upper part of two bearded figures identical in relative position, pose and gesture with the two figures on the r. in 1854,0628.13; the fragment with the repentant thief shows the top of a reed cross which must be that held by the Baptist, together with a piece of horizontally fluttering drapery, both as in 1854,0628.13. Though there can thus be no doubt that the painting of which the Hampton Court panels formed part corresponded, but for the thieves, with 1854,0628.13, the exact nature of the relationship between the two is not entirely clear: the high finish and lack of pentimenti in the drawing suggest that it is either a modello - in which case the thieves in the picture were an afterthought- or a derivation made by Perino after he had designed and perhaps even executed the composition.
The Hampton Court panels were convincingly identified by Sir Kenneth Clark as fragments of a 'Descent from the Cross' which Perino, according to Vasari (v, pp. 599 f.), painted for the chapel of a protonotary apostolic in S. Maria sopra Minerva. Vasari's description is compatible with a synthesis of the fragments and the drawing: he speaks of the crucified thieves "che sono oltra al parer morti e veri, molto ben ricerchi di muscoli e di nervi" and of a "paese nelle tenebre, contrafatto con molta discrezione ed arte" ; while the fact that the fragments come from the upper part of a composition further supports the identification, since Vasari goes on to say that the flood which occurred after the Sack of Rome (on 8 October 1530) submerged and ruined more than half of the panel. They were certainly sawn from the altar-piece before coming to England, since an engraving (B. xvii, p. 313,1) of the interior of an artist's workshop, by Pierfrancesco Alberti (1584-1638), shows one of them hanging on the wall.
The Minerva altar-piece, if the context in which Vasari discusses it is any indication of its date, would have been painted before Perino was obliged to leave Rome by the plague of 1523.
Literature: A. E. Popham, Burlington, lxxxvi (1945), p. 63.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1962/3 Nov-Sep, BM, 'Raphael and his Circle', (P+G)
1987/8 Oct-Jan, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Raphael', no. 69
1999 Mar-May, Mantua, Palazzo Te, 'Roma e lo stile classico di Raffaello', No.122
1999 Jul-Sep, Vienna, Albertina, 'Roma e lo stile classico di Raffaello', No.122
2001 Mar-Jun, Mantua, Palazzo Te, 'Perino del Vaga: between Raphael and Michelangelo'
2019, 13 Sep–13 Dec, USA, University of San Diego, University Galleries, Christ: Life, Death and Resurrection, Italian Renaissance Drawings & Prints from the British Museum
2020, 25 Jan–28 Sep, USA, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Art, The birth, death and resurrection of Christ: from Michelangelo to Tiepolo
2022 2 Feb - 15 May London, BM, G90a, 'Raphael and his Circle'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number