- Museum number
The Pietà; the Virgin Mary seated to front, with the body of Christ on her lap
Brush drawing in brown ink, heightened with white (partly discoloured), on yellow-brown paper
- Production date
Height: 211 millimetres
Width: 212 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The attribution to Ercole de' Roberti goes back to Colvin, and was for some time widely followed, not least by Kuhmer, who connected it with the Walker 'Pietà'. This link was rejected by Popham and Pouncey (see below), who, while hesitantly retaining the attribution to Ercole, associated it with a picture of the same subject in reverse by Mazzolino (see below). With regard to their uncertainty about the location of the latter work, Sara Menato has kindly pointed out that the picture to which they refer is identical with that now in the Cini Collection in Venice. Developing this association, Andrea Bacci has suggested that the present drawing is a preparatory study for the picture, a view modified by Monica Molteni, who, while supporting the reattribution to Mazzolino, saw a maturity in the handling that recommended a date at least a decade after the picture, that is in the 1510s. Manca, meanwhile, has endorsed the traditional ascription to Roberti, placing the sheet in his Bolognese period (1481-6).
Lit.: K.T. Parker, 'North Italian Drawings of the Quattrocento', London, 1927, no. 26, p. 27; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 228, II, pl. CXCVI (with previous literature); A. Bacchi, 'Dipinti ferraresi dalla collezione Vittorio Cini', Vicenza, 1990, pp.58-60 (as Mazzolino); J. Manca 'The Art of Ercole de' Roberti', Cambridge 1992, p.140(19); M. Molteni, 'Ercole de' Roberti', Milan, 1995, p. 217, no. 86 (as Mazzolino).
Popham & Pouncey 1950
The composition seems to be worthy of Roberti and it is possible that the drawing is from his own hand, but there is no evidence for connecting it, as is often done, with the 'Pietà' which once formed the centre portion of the predella painted for S. Giovanni in Monte at Bologna, and which is now in the Liverpool Gallery (Venturi, 'Storia', vii. 3, fig. 516).
The composition is weakly reproduced in reverse by Mazzolino on a panel in the ex-Cook collection, Richmond (cat. no. 542; repr. Arundel Club Publication, 1916, no. 6) which seems to be the same picture as that reproduced by Venturi ('North Italian Painting of the Quattrocento: Emilia', 1931, pl. 57) as in the Cassel Gallery. Mazzolino unintelligently makes the sarcophagus stretch right across the picture like a low wall.
Literature: B.M. Guides, 1892, no. 28 and 1895, no. 75; K. T. Parker, North Italian Drawings, 1927, p. 27, pl. 26.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1983 Feb-Mar, Nottingham UAG, 'Italian Drawings', no. 54
1983 Mar-May, V&A, 'Italian Drawings', no. 54
2018 – 2019 Oct-Jan, Milan, Museo Pietà Rondanini-Michelangelo, Castello Sforzesco, Vesperbild. Alle origini della Pietà vaticana di Michelangelo
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number