- Museum number
St Peter; whole-length standing slightly to left, holding a key and a book
Pen and brown ink
Verso: The Risen Christ; whole-length standing to front, his drapery gathered up over his left arm
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
- 1435-1445 (circa)
Height: 274 millimetres
Width: 130 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The drawing was acquired after the second (1876) edition of Malcolm's catalogue and the only record of it is in the departmental interleaved copy of the book: 'Add 15. Pari Spinello [sic]/ Two sketches for figures of our Saviour and St Paul [crossed out and replaced with] Peter, chiefly studies of drapery - pen and bistre'. Above this in pencil Sidney Colvin wrote 'back + front: attribution doubtful'.
Thanks to the lengthy biography written by his fellow Arentine Giorgio Vasari, the sixteenth-century artist and author of the 'Lives of the Artists', Parri's activities are unusually well documented. The artist was born in Arezzo the son of the painter Spinello Aretino (1350/2-1410), by whom he was trained and for whom he is recorded as an assistant in Siena. After his father's death Parri went to Florence, where, according to Vasari, he worked in the studio of the sculptor and goldsmith Lorenzo Ghiberti. In 1419 he returned to his birthplace and apparently never left there again. One panel painting and a number of frescoes in Arezzo survive.
Parri's drawings survive in unusually large numbers for an artist of his epoch: twenty-eight sheets, a number of which are drawn on both sides, are accepted by Zucker (1981, p. 426 and n. 5, p. 438). The largest group of them is in the Uffizi (Degenhart-Schmitt, 1-2, nos. 204-11, 213-15, 217-20 and 223, 4, pls. 223-32), their attribution to Parri was first advanced by Pasquale Nerino Ferri at the end of the nineteenth century ('Catalogo riassuntivo della raccolta di disegni antichi e moderni posseduta dalla R. Galleria degli Uffizi di Firenze', Rome, 1890, pp. 141-3). Although none of Spinelli's drawings (all of which are in pen and ink) can be shown to be directly preparatory for any of his surviving painted works, the attenuated proportions and the graceful swaying poses of the figures, as well as the twisting loops of drapery that animate their forms, are parallelled in the artist's altarpiece the 'Madonna della Misericordia', datable to 1435-7, now in the museum in Arezzo (Zucker, 1981, fig. 1), and in frescoes such as the 'Crucifxion' from the late 1430s in San Domenico, Arezzo (idem fig. 3). The present study is a good example of Parri's distinctive drawing style, and can be compared to other single figures of standing saints such as those in the Uffizi (Degenhart-Schmitt nos. 207, 213), the Morgan Library (Zucker, 1969, pl. 15) and that formerly in the Van Beuningen collection, Rotterdam (Degenhart-Schmitt no. 221). The latter drawing is also a study of Saint Peter and shows the figure in a similar pose, and they may once have been in the same sketchbook.
Vasari's sympathetic analysis of Parri's late Gothic figural style accords well with the studies found on either side of the present sheet: 'Fece Parri le sue figure molto più svelte e lunghe che niun pittore che fusse stato inanzi a lui, e dove gl'altri le fanno il più di dieci teste, egli le fece d'undici e talvolta di dodici: né perciò avevano disgrazia, comeché fossero sottili e facessero sempre arco o in sul lato destra o in sul manco; perciò che, sì come pareva a lui, avevano, e lo diceva egli stesso, più bravura. Il panneggiare de'panni fu sottilissimo e copioso ne'lembi, i quali alle sue figure cascavano di sopra le braccia insino attorno ai piedi' (Vasari, Bettarini and Barocchi ed.,1971, III, p. 113. [Parri made his figures much more slender and tall than any other painter who preceded him, and where others made them at most ten heads high, he made his eleven and even twelve; nor were they lacking in grace, for they were always supple and arched either to the right or left, to give them more spirit, as he expressed it. The drapery was very full and delicate, and in his figures it fell from above to the arms to the feet].
Lit.: B. Berenson, 'The Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1930, II, no. 1837G; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 186, II, pl. CLXVII; B. Degenhart and A. Schmitt, 'Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300-1450, Süd-und Mittelitalien', Berlin, 1968, I-2, no. 222, I-4, pl. 232a-b; M.J. Zucker, 'A New Drawings by Parri Spinelli and an Old One by Spinello', "Master Drawings", VII, 4, 1969, p. 400; F. Bellini, in exhib. cat., Florence, Uffizi, 'I Disegni Antichi degli Uffizi, i tempi del Ghiberti', 1978, under no. 38, p. 39; M.J. Zucker, 'Parri Spinelli Drawings Reconsidered', "Master Drawings", XIX, 4, Winter 1981, pp. 428-9, pl. 14; F. Ames-Lewis and J. Wright, in exhib. cat., Nottingham, University Art Gallery and London, Victoria and Albert, 'Drawing in the Italian Renaissance Workshop', 1983, no. 27; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 6, pp. 102-3 (cat. entry by H. Chapman).
Popham & Pouncey 1950
A great many studies by Parri Spinelli have survived, drawn in precisely this way. It may be supposed that they once formed part of one or more sketch-books. Among his drawings in the Uffizi (where the majority are to be found) is one representing S. Paul standing, on about the same scale (33 E verso, photo. Gernsheim 1110), which may well have been done in preparation for a companion figure to the S. Peter. Another drawing by Parri, for a standing S. Peter, was in the A. G. B. Russell Sale, 22 May 1928, lot 91 (repr. in catalogue and also in 'Pantheon', i (1928), p. 268).
Literature: BB 1837G
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1983 Feb-Mar, Nottingham UAG, 'Italian Drawings', no. 27
1983 Mar-May, V&A, 'Italian Drawings', no. 27
2010 April-July, BM, 'Fra Angelico to Leonardo', no. 6
2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.6
2017 5-28 September, BM, G90a, The Age of Gozzoli
2019, 13 Sep–13 Dec, USA, University of San Diego, University Galleries, Christ: Life, Death and Resurrection, Italian Renaissance Drawings & Prints 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