- Museum number
The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas; enthroned and flanked by women beneath an arcade, groups of figures in the foreground, including some sorting through books at r
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, over leadpoint, on paper with a light brown wash (small strip added at top, possibly by Mariette who made many such additions, and along right edge)
- Production date
- 1488-1493 (circa)
Height: 290 millimetres
Width: 238 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Composition study for the fresco painted by Lippi between 1488-93 for Cardinal Oliviero Carafa's chapel in the Dominican church of S. Maria sopra Minerva, Rome, dedicated to the Annunciate Virgin and St Thomas Aquinas (illustrated in colour in Met. cat. p. 76; see Zambrano and Katz Nelson, pp. 579--82, no. 39G). The finished work is much simplified with far fewer figures, omitting, for example, the patron with his retinue on the left side of the present drawing. Revisions have also been made, among other things, to the figure of St. Thomas, whose sheet of parchment in the drawing has been substituted with a book in the fresco, and to the architecture - for example in the absence of the tablets of inscriptions held by fictive putti in the final picture. At the bottom, moreover, Filippino only includes a balustrade on one side, which he either intended to repeat on the other half in the finished work, or to present to the patron as one of two alternative proposals for the foreground, the other being the pilastered wall at the right. As these pilasters are absent from the wall behind the balustrade, the latter alternative perhaps seems more likely, and indeed many of the changes introduced after this sheet were probably the result of a close dialogue between Lippi and Carafa.
For a list of all the extant studies pertaining to this fresco, see Zambrano and Katz Nelson, p. 583. BM 1946,0713.215 (Popham and Pouncey) is a preparatory drawing for one of the sibyls frescoed on the ceiling of the chapel.
Vasari mentions that he had in his collection a study of the fresco by Lippi, and it may well be the present one. There is no firm evidence to support this, although Mariette's ownership of it is significant as he had a large number of pages from Vasari's 'Libro' (the album where his drawings collection was stored).
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.: A. Scharf, 'Filippino Lippi', Vienna, 1935, no. 195, pp. 41-2,121, fig. 159; O. Kurz, 'Giorgio Vasari's Libro de'Disegni', "Old Master Drawings", XII, June 1937, p. 14; B. Berenson, 'The Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1938, I, p. 104, II, no. 1344, p. 150, III, fig., 224; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 131, II, pl. CXX; L. Ragghianti Collobi, 'Il Libro de'Disegni del Vasari', Florence, 1974, I, p. 85, II, fig. 238; F. Ames-Lewis, 'Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy', New Haven, 1981, pp. 47, 50, 137, fig. 24; G.L. Geiger, 'Filippino Lippi's Carafa Chapel: Renaissance Art in Rome', Kirksville, Mo., 1986, pp. 106-8, pl. 61; H. Wohl, 'The Eye of Vasari', "Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz", XXX, 1986, p. 558, no. 16; I.H. Shoemaker, 'Filippino Lippi as a Draughtsman', Michigan, 1993 (U.M.I. facsimile of 1975 Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, New York), no. 60, pp. 238-245; G.R. Goldner and C.C. Bambach, in exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle', 1997, no. 55, pp. 216-7 (with previous literature); P. Zambrano and J. Katz Nelson, 'Filippino Lippi', Milan, 2004, esp. pp. 543 and 583, no. 39.d.15; C. Van Cleave, 'Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance', London, 2007, p. 98, illustrated p. 101; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 66, pp.238-9 (cat. entry by R. Sassi).
Popham & Pouncey 1950
A composition sketch for the fresco painted by Filippino on the r.-hand wall of the chapel dedicated to the Annunciate Virgin and S. Thomas Aquinas in the Dominican church of S. Maria sopra Minerva in Rome (Van Marle, xii, fig. 205). The chapel was erected by Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa and from him the artist received the commission for its decoration shortly before 2 Sept. 1488 (cf. a letter from the cardinal printed by E. Müntz, 'Archivio storico dell' arte', ii (1889), p. 484). In a letter of 2 May 1489 Filippino states that he is at work on the frescoes (cf. Scharf, pp. 90 f.); and an inscription on the wall of the chapel dated 19 May 1493, printed by Forcella, 'Iscrizioni delle chiese.. .di Roma', i (1869), p. 425, no. 1629, records papal dispensations to those praying in the chapel, the decoration of which, it would appear, had then been completed.
The triumph of S. Thomas over heresy, a Dominican theme, is already found depicted in the fourteenth century, e.g. in a panel commissioned in 1363 in S. Caterina at Pisa, until recently generally ascribed to Francesco Traini (Van Marle, v, pl. opp. p. 204), and in a fresco in the Spanish Chapel in S. Maria Novella, Florence (Van Marle, iii, fig. 249), which Andrea da Firenze received the commission to decorate in Dec. 1365. A panel by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Louvre, from Pisa Cathedral, also represents this theme (Van Marle, xi, fig. 134).
In the picture in S. Caterina the recumbent man at the saint's feet is identified by an inscription as Averroes; in Filippino's fresco the corresponding figure, holding a scroll inscribed "SAPIENTIA VIN/ CIT MALITIAM", would appear to be a personification of evil. No figure identifiable as Averroes occurs in the fresco, although Vasari says that he is here represented. Certain other heretics are named, however: Apollinaris on the extreme 1.; Arius, the white-bearded man on the 1. who gazes down at a book whereon is inscribed his 'error'; and Sabellius facing him on the r., looking down at another book on the pages of which his 'error' is likewise set forth. The man on the r. with his finger to his mouth and on whose hood the letters "NICHEV" are discernible is presumably Manes or Mani, the latinized form of whose name is Manichaeus. On the turban of the man immediately behind Sabellius are inscribed the letters "EXCH / ITES". This may be a misspelling of Euchites; in which case this individual is intended to represent the particularly insidious sect of heretics, originating from Mesopotamia, known as the Euchites or Messalians. In the sketch the heretics are concentrated on the r. A figure posed like that of Sabellius in the fresco can be distinguished. The dogs introduced into this group are perhaps to be interpreted as symbols of heresy.
The identification of the four female figures seated beside the saint presents difficulties even in the fresco. It can be said, however, that Scharf is incorrect in terming them the four cardinal virtues, since the r.-hand figure in the fresco (and, it would seem, the corresponding figure in the drawing also), by comparison with the personification on the extreme right of the fresco by Andrea da Firenze already referred to, is proved to be Grammar, who instructs the child at her knee. The female next to her in Filippino's fresco, holding a scorpion, corresponds with the third figure from the right in Andrea's painting and can therefore be identified as Logic (or Dialectic). With less certainty the crowned figure pointing upwards on S. Thomas's r. can be equated with the crowned and upward-pointing female who holds a winnowing-fan and is seated fifth from the 1. in Andrea's fresco. This personage has been variously identified as Moral Philosophy, as Speculative or Moral Theology, and as the Theology of Reason. By Halm, Filippino's four figures are called Philosophy, Theology, Rhetoric, and Grammar.
It would appear that at the time that the drawing was made it was intended to portray Cardinal Caraffa and his retinue in this fresco. The cardinal was eventually depicted in the fresco over the altar, where he may be seen kneeling before the Annunciate Virgin, to whom he is presented by S. Thomas.
Halm and Scharf argue from the proportions of the drawing that it was originally proposed to allot the entire r.-hand wall to this subject and that the decision to surmount the 'Triumph of S. Thomas' with a lunette representing the 'Crucifix speaking to the Saint' (Scharf, pl. 51) was taken later. Frizzoni effectively anticipates this hypothesis by pointing out that the composition of the drawing does not differ materially in proportions from that of the fresco if allowance is made for the flanking pilasters in the latter (they are not reckoned with in the sketch) and for the 'basamento' and foreground steps indicated in the drawing but not included in the painting. It is worth noting in this connection that in placing the scene of the 'Crucifix speaking to the Saint' above the 'Triumph' Filippino conforms with Benozzo's practice in the Louvre panel already referred to, the difference between the two renderings being that Filippino treats episodically what is rendered symbolically by the earlier artist. In the Louvre picture, above S. Thomas enthroned, appears the half-length figure of Christ in glory, blessing; and below Him are inscribed precisely those words which were uttered by the Crucifix: "BENE SCRIPSISTI DE ME THOMMA".
It is quite possible, as Brandi (loc. cit.) points out, that our sketch is the study for this fresco to which Vasari (iii, p. 468) refers as being in his own album of drawings. Giglioli ('Dedalo', vii (1926/7), p. 781) reproduces the verso of a drawing by Filippino in the Uffizi (BB 1281), which, as he was the first to observe, is a study for the figure of S. Thomas in the Minerva fresco. C. F. Bell ('Christ Church Drawings', 1914, p. 63) describes a double-sided sheet in Christ Church Library as a "study for or from" Filippino's fresco of the 'Triumph'. Another drawing at Christ Church mentioned by Bell (loc. cit.) and reproduced by Colvin ('Drawings . .. in the University Galleries and in the Library of Christ Church', 1907, i, pl. 10) is rightly termed by Colvin a contemporary copy of the group in the 1. foreground of the fresco. A copy of Filippino's fresco occurs on the verso of a sketch-book leaf at Berlin (no. 4552). The École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, possesses a copy in red chalk of five of the figures in the 1. foreground. It is ascribed to G. F. Rustici.
A study by Filippino for the figure of the 'Cumaean Sibyl' on the vault of this chapel is catalogued below, 1946,0713.215.
Literature: BB 1344, fig. 224, pl. LV of first ed.; F. Wickhoff, Prussian Jahrbuch, xx (1899), p. 211 note; G. Frizzoni, L'Arte, viii (1905), p. 243, fig. 3; Van Marle, xii (1931), p. 365; Peter Halm, Mitteilungen des kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, iii (1931), p. 408, fig. 6; C. Brandi, Burlington, lxvii (1935), p. 35; A. Scharf, op. cit., pp. 41 f. and 80, cat. no. 195, fig. 159; O. Kurz, O.M.D., xii (1937/8), p. 14; K. Neilson, op. cit., p. 92, fig. 41.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990 April-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D (no cat.)
1997/8 Oct-Jan, New York, Met. Mus. of Art, 'Filippino Lippi', no.55
2010 April-July, BM, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo`, no.66
2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.66
2015 Apr-Jul, Milan, Palazzo Reale, 'Leonardo 1452-1519'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number