- Museum number
Design for a sculpted eucharistic altarpiece with Cardinal Alvise Trevisan kneeling to the right of the tabernacle; inscribed ".L. PATRIARCA. AQILE"; with St Lawrence and Louis at the base, St Paul and St Peter above and the Risen Christ at the top
Pen and brown ink, over black chalk
- Production date
- 1462-1464 (circa)
Height: 382 millimetres
Width: 246 millimetres (max; irregularly cut)
- Curator's comments
The drawing is a study for a sculpted altarpiece, celebrating the Eucharist or Holy Communion, with a tabernacle where the vessel containing the host is kept. The symbolic link between the tabernacle and Christ's tomb is made clear in the design by the inclusion of the figure of the Risen Christ at the top (for comparable examples of eucharistic sculpted altarpieces see F. Caglioti, 'Su Isaia da Pisa. Due 'Angeli reggicandelabro' in Santa Sabina all'Aventino e l'altare eucaristico del Cardinal d'Estouteville per Santa Maggiore', "Prospettiva", 89-90, Jan-April 1998, p. 128ff.). A similar allusion is found in the tabernacle of 1491 by the as-yet-unidentified sculptor, 'Ciuccio di Nuccio', in the cathedral in Cortona which has a figure of the Dead Christ in the lunette above the tabernacle door (Cagliotti,1998, fig. 20), and also in an earlier, and now fragmentary and much restored, tabernacle by Andrea Guardi in the Lateran Baptistry in Rome (Cagliotti, 1998, fig. 31). The BM design can be compared to a more or less contemporary series of studies in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Uffizi, Florence and at Chatsworth of an altarpiece incorporating a tabernacle at the centre by the Florentine sculptor Francesco di Simone Ferrucci (1437-1493); for these see O. Kurz, 'A Group of Florentine Drawings for an Altar', "Journal of the Warburg and Courtaul Institutes", XVIII, 1955, p. 40ff. In the BM drawing on either side of the tabernacle are niches with figures, probably sculpted in high relief rather than in the round, with St Lawrence on the left, and an episcopal saint, almost certainly the patron's namesake St Louis of Toulouse. Above these are sculptures of the Risen Christ pointing to his wounded side, and to the left St Paul (holding a sword) balanced by Peter on the other side.
The patron of the work depicted kneeling in adoration to the right of the tabernacle was the Paduan-born Cardinal Alvise (or Ludovico) Trevisan (1402-1465). His arms decorate the base of the altarpiece, and his device of the half-wheel (mezzaruota in Italian), derived from his mother's family name Mezzarota, features eleven times in the entablature. The inscription L[udovicus] . PATRIARCA. AQ[u]ILE[iensis] refers to him being Patriarch of Aquileia, an office he held from 1439. He was also from 1440 Cardinal of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, Rome; the prominence of St Lawrence in the design indicates that BM drawing is for an altar in this church. The Cardinal was one of the most important figures in the Church in the mid-fifteenth century. Son of a doctor, Biagio Trevisan, Ludovico took a degree in arts and medicine in his native Padua. He entered the household of the Venetian Cardinal Codulmer, who was elected Pope Eugenius IV in 1431. With Papal support Trevisan rose swiftly through the Church hierarchy: appointed Bishop of Trau in 1435, Archbishop of Florence in 1437, in January 1440 he was made 'Camerlengo' or Treasurer of the Church, in June the same year he was commander of the Papal troops at the Battle of Anghiari, and in 1456-7 he was admiral of the Papal fleet in the successful campaign against the Turks. His portrait by Mantegna is in Berlin (R. Lightbown, 'Andrea Mantegna', Oxford, 1986, no. 11, pl. 46). Trevisan is sometimes confusingly referred to as Scarampo or Scarampi because of his protection or semi-adoption of two brothers called Scarampo.
The BM drawing was purchased from the Lawrence-Woodburn sale where it was given to the Tuscan sculptor Mino da Fiesole. Popham and Pouncey rejected this, cataloguing it as a Tuscan (?) work of 1462-5 but mentioning the possibility that it might be by Paolo Romano. Although the design owes much to Florence, the manner of drawing is not at all Florentine as is revealed by comparison with the aforementioned drawings by Francesco di Simone Ferrucci. The wiry penwork and spare modelling are typically north Italian, comparable, for example, to drawings by the young Andrea Mantegna (such as 1895,0915.780). Francesco Caglioti has convincingly demonstrated on stylistic grounds that it is an early work by the north Italian sculptor Andrea Bregno (1418-1503). He bases the attribution on the design's similarities to Bregno's tomb of Cardinal Louis d'Albret in S. Maria in Aracoeli, Rome, executed c. 1466-8, and to a votive relief showing Cardinal Nikolaus von Kues adoring St Peter in S. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, of a few years earlier (Caglioti, 1997, figs 3 and 4) . The perspectival illusionism in the BM design and the Aracoeli tomb, such as the seemingly deeply recessed niches behind the saints in the lower level of both works, shows Bregno's knowledge of Desiderio da Settignano's tabernacle in S. Lorenzo in Florence of 1461 (J. Pope-Hennessy, 'Italian Renaissance Sculpture', London, 1958, fig. 45). The Florentine work was also the source of the central triumphal arch motif in the centre with adoring angels emerging from doorways at the sides. Caglioti plausibly suggests that Bregno stopped in Florence on his journey to Rome from northern Italy (Lombardy or perhaps the Veneto) where the Lugano-born sculptor trained. The BM drawing appears to be his earliest known work, c. 1462-4, and most likely was created as finished design to be shown for the approval of the patron. The sculpture appears never to have been realised, probably due to the death of the patron in 1465.
Lit.: A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 275, II, pl. CCXLV; G.C. Sciolla, 'La scultura di Mino da Fiesole', Turin, 1970, pp. 36-7, 80-1, no. 26, fig. 44 (as Mino da Fiesole ?); F. Caglioti, 'Sui Primi Tempi Romani d'Andrea Bregno: un Progetto per il Cardinale Camerlengo Alvise Trevisan e un San Michele Arcangelo per il Cardinale Juan de Carvajal', "Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz", XLI, 3, 1997, pp. 213-19, 227-40; G. Agosti, in exhib. cat., Florence, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, 'Disegni del Rinascimento in Valpadana', 2001, pp. 46-7, n. 14; F. Caglioti, 'La Cappella Piccolomini nel Duomo di Siena, da Andrea Bregno a Michelangelo' in A. Angelini (ed.), 'Pio II e le arti, la riscoperta dell'antico da Federighi a Michelangelo', Siena, 2005, pp. 403-7, fig. 18
Popham & Pouncey 1950
Next to the tabernacle in the centre kneels Cardinal Lodovico Scarampi Mezzarota. A statue of S. Lawrence occupies the l.-hand niche. The episcopal saint on the opposite side is perhaps S. Louis of Toulouse. Crowning the centre compartment is a statue of the Redeemer, Who holds His banner and indicates the wound in His side.
Over the niche on the 1. is S. Paul, who is balanced on the r. by S. Peter. The cardinal's arms are placed at either end of the predella: 'azure' three stars in fess between two barrulets; in base a segment of a wheel, its centre on the point of the shield, all 'or'.
The half-wheel ('mezza ruota') is omitted from the l.-hand shield. It appears eleven times in the friezes above. The fragmentary inscription in the centre of the predella reads: "•L•PATRIARCA•AQILE".
Lodovico Scarampi of Padua, born 1402; physician to Eugenius IV; bishop of Trau, 1435; archbishop of Florence, 1437; patriarch of Aquileia, 1439; cardinal of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, 1440; commanded the papal troops at the battle of Anghiari, 1440, and as admiral of the papal fleet gained successes against the Turks in 1456/7. His portrait, painted by Mantegna, probably 1459/60, when the cardinal was at Mantua, used to be in Berlin. He is also portrayed on a medal ascribed to Cristoforo Geremia (Hill, 'Corpus', 756). According to Ciaconius (1677 ed. ii, col. 921), he was created a Venetian patrician in 1462 and, being of humble birth on his father's side, assumed his mother's surname, Mezzarota. If the cardinal did not assume the half- wheel ('mezza ruota') until after this event and the drawing was made in his lifetime, its execution must date from between 1462 and 1465, when he died.
The cardinal was buried in his church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso. The sculptor, Paolo di Mariano Taccone, known as Paolo Romano, received payment for the tomb in 1467 (cf. document printed by Bertolotti, 'Repertorium', iv (1881), p. 432). We have been unable to discover any reference to a reredos. It seems likely, however, that it was intended for the same church, since S. Lawrence occupies an important position and it is said that the cardinal undertook the restoration of the church.
Who the sculptor may have been we are unable as yet to say. The drawing was ascribed in the Woodburn Sale to Mino da Fiesole. The name of Luigi Capponi has been suggested. To us it seems that it may be by an artist in contact with Mino, possibly Paolo Romano. The cardinal's tomb is now in the l. aisle of the church but cannot be used for comparison, since it was remade in 1505, and it is far from certain that any part of the original monument has been preserved.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019, 06 Sep–15 Dec, USA, San Diego, Timken Museum of Art, Masterpieces of Italian Drawings 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
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number