- Museum number
Holy Family with St John the Baptist and St Michael; the Virgin seated on a throne with the infant Christ on her knee, with St Joseph and the infant st John the Baptist standing to her right, with St Michael trampling on a devil to left, and offering a human soul to Christ; after Sabbattini and Calvaert. 1582
- Production date
Height: 428 millimetres (trimmed unevenly around borders)
Width: 289 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The attribution of the engraving has been much debated with several writers attributing it to Agostino, having read the inscription as 'Au. Cara' rather than 'Ani. Cara': see note in Posner, vol II, p.12. (Text from Michael Bury, 'The Print in Italy, 1550-1620', BM 2001, no. 154).
A drawing in Chatsworth is very closely related to the print and to an altarpiece by Lorenzo Sabbatini and Denys Calvaert in the Malvasia chapel in S.Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna. It is in black chalk and brown wash, heightened with white and measures 499 x 297mm. Johnston (1982, pp.53 and 57), followed by Jaffé, argued that the drawing was by Calvaert, who seems to have been the principal executant of the altarpiece (1987, pp.133-34, no.81; Malvasia, 1841, I, p.196). DeGrazia, on the other hand, attributed the drawing to Annibale and saw it as preparatory for the engraving.
Calvaert was Sabatini's leading assistant at the time of work on the chapel, c.1570; so when preparing to execute the altarpiece on the basis of Sabatini's designs, he may have made this drawing as part of the final preparations for the painting. Apart from stylistic features that prohibit an attribution to Annibale, there are internal features that make it more plausibly a preparation for the painting than for the print. There is the way the composition is cut on the right, there are uncertainties such as the pentimenti around the arched opening beneath the Virgin's throne, and there are features like the pavement that relate neither to painting nor to print. All these would support the idea that the drawing was for the altarpiece. However there are elements that connect the print and the drawing which would suggest that the drawing was reused as the starting point for the design of the engraving.
This is a remarkable demonstration of Annibale's command of the burin, in which he had received instruction from his elder brother Agostino (Malvasia, I, p.294). The variety of marks and their inventive combinations give it a fascination as surface. Annibale's decision to engrave compositions by the earlier generation of Bolognese artists fits well with what his brother was doing at this time. Between about 1579 and 1581 Agostino made a series of engravings after designs by Sabatini and Samacchini (Bohlin, p.36).
BM also has an impression of the second state: see 1874,0808.649. This impression is damaged.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number