- Museum number
Christ Disputing with the Doctors, after Raphael (?); a woman standing at right foreground holding onto her head covering, a church interior with arcades behind
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, heightened with white (partly oxidised), on three sheets conjoined
- Production date
Height: 538 millimetres
Width: 418 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The composition survives in its most complete form in a drawing attributed to Bagnacavallo in the Louvre (10079). The lower part of the BM drawing was copied in reverse as Raphael in C.M. Metz, 'Imitations of Ancient and Modern Drawings', London, 1789 (and in 1798 expanded edition). Another version of the composition, also given to Bagnacavallo, was in Horvitz collection, see 'The Jeffrey E. Horvitz Collection of Italian Drawings', Sotheby's, New York, 23 January 2008, lot 28.
Lit.: P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and His Circle', London, 1962, I, no. 56, II, pl. 54; U. Ruggeri, review of S. Zamboni, 'Ludovico Mazzolino', "Critica d'Arte", XVII (XXXV), Sept-Oct 1970, p. 71; N. Dacos, 'Pedro Machuca en Italie', in 'Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Federico Zeri', Milan, 1984, p.348 (as Machuca)
Pouncey & Gere 1962
The composition survives in its most complete form in an anonymous drawing (Louvre 10079) which shows that the upper and lower halves of 1857,0520.63 have been joined about an inch too far apart and confirms what can readily be seen, that the lower half is on a larger scale: the knees of the enthroned Christ should be on a level with the head of the bearded doctor immediately to the l. of the throne, while the tops of heads just visible in the upper part between the throne and the l.-hand staircase are those of the back row in the group underneath. Whoever assembled 1857,0520.63 evidently hoped to disguise the disparity of scale by trimming the r.-hand pilaster of the throne. The two pieces composing the lower half cannot have been part of a single sheet, since the washed and unwashed areas and the levels of the throne steps can never have corresponded.
The composition was known and admired in the Bologna-Ferrara neighbourhood at the beginning of the sixteenth century: the Louvre drawing is not far in style from Bagnacavallo; a squared drawing at Munich (34721), showing groups of figures on the staircases as in the Louvre drawing and onlookers on both the balconies, but stopping short just above the level of Christ's head, seems to be by an artist close to Aspertini; in a drawing of 'Christ Disputing' in the Galleria Estense, Modena (1207, as Bagnacavallo?), the composition is reduced to the principal figures, some of which have been rearranged; a painting of the same subject by Garofalo in the Galleria Sabauda at Turin (153) repeats the Virgin and the two doctors in the centre foreground; the r.-hand one of these also occurs on a sheet at Stockholm representing the 'Disputation of S. Augustine' (Sirén, 'Handteckningar' 203; Schönbrunner-Meder, x, 1104), traditionally attributed to Aspertini and given by Schönbrunner-Meder to Mazzolino but recognized by Popham as being by Pupini; parts of the architectural background are copied in the Stockholm drawing as well as in a fresco of the 'Visitation', [this fresco resembles 1857,0520.63 and differs from the Louvre and Munich drawings in showing the solitary figure by the pillar at the top of the r.-hand staircase] attributed, probably rightly, to Bagnacavallo, in S. Vitale, Bologna; knowledge of the composition is shown in a drawing of 'Christ Disputing', by Mazzolino, in the Pierpont Morgan Library (i, pl. 93).
1857,0520.63 was attributed to Raphael when in the Reynolds Collection, and to Andrea del Sarto in the Macintosh Sale. The latter attribution was accepted by Ruland, who listed 1857,0520.63 with drawings "ascribed to Raphael"; and in spite of Berenson's oral suggestion of the name of Pacchia, it remained with Andrea until 1941 when it was classified by Popham as "attributed to Garofalo". The fact that this composition should have been well known in Emilia need not necessarily imply for it a Bolognese or Ferrarese origin, nor indeed is it possible to think of any Emilian 'Raphaeliser' capable of so original and so nobly spacious a conception. In our opinion the old attribution to Raphael himself deserves to be taken seriously, so far as the composition is concerned. The subtlety and beauty of the grouping, the forward surge of the figures and the questioning expressions with which they turn to each other, find their closest parallels in the 'Disputa' in the Stanza della Segnatura; we would nevertheless be inclined to date the presumed original somewhat earlier, at a moment in the Florentine period when Raphael had not shaken off all his Umbrian mannerisms (e.g. the costume) but had already absorbed the lessons of Leonardo's 'Adoration of the Magi'.
The upper part of 1857,0520.63 is much superior in quality to the lower. The few figures are too fragmentary to allow any definite conclusions to be drawn, but what can be seen of their handling appears to be Raphaelesque. The lower part, made up of pieces of two separate drawings both apparently by the same indifferent copyist, can also (but in another sense) be so described: Popham has compared it, orally, with such a drawing by Raphael as the study at Frankfurt (F [v] 255) for the fresco of 'Justinian delivering the Pandects' in the Stanza della Segnatura. Though far removed in quality from this drawing, 1857,0520.63 resembles it in technique and handling, particularly in the way the washes are applied.
Literature: Ruland, p. 43, xxi, no. 1; Metz, Imitations, facsimile engr. of lower part only, in reverse (Weigel 6640).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1962/3 Nov-Sep, BM, Raphael and his Circle (P+G)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number