- Museum number
Study of the drapery of a kneeling woman and man; the woman turned to left and the man seen almost from behind
Brown and white distemper on linen coloured dark brown-grey
- Production date
Height: 273 millimetres
Width: 316 millimetres
- Curator's comments
The practice of studying draperies soaked in liquid clay to solidify the folds on a clay or wooden models is common to a number of artists in Florence in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, and may have originated in Verrocchio's studio. Leonardo's name is associated with a number of studies executed in distemper on linen (including 1895,0915.489; Popham and Pouncey 95), and this drawing was traditionally attributed to him. Berenson gave it to Giovanni Antonio Sogliani (1492-1544); while Degenhart attributed it to Fra Bartolommeo, in common with all drapery studies of this type. Popham came to accept this idea, noting its affinities with the artist's study in the same technique (1895,0915.487; Turner 28) for the figure of Christ in the fresco of the 'Last Judgement' in Santa Maria Nuova in Florence commissioned in 1499.
The kneeling figure on the right of the drawing is most likely Saint Jerome, as a related double-sided drawing in the Uffizi, Florence (284 E; Fischer no. 2, figs. 3-4) shows him kneeling besides some books and a stone, customary attributes of his penitence. The pose of the figure studied in pen and ink on the recto of the Uffizi drawing is almost identical to that shown here, although it is drawn from a slightly higher vantage point and there are a number of differences to the drapery folds, most notably the more prominent knot of drapery at the waist. On the verso the artist in black chalk studied the figure again, viewed from the side and in the nude. The same model served as a model for a drawing in the Uffizi (434 E; Fischer no. 3, fig. 5), executed in the same technique as the BM study. The drapery is substantially the same as that in the London sheet, and is also lit in a similar way, although again there are small changes in some of the configurations of the folds. The London and Florence drawings cannot be connected to any painting by the artist, although he used them as the model for a figure of an apostle in drawing in the Uffizi of the 'Assumption of the Virgin' (1237 E; Fischer no. 24, fig. 27). The latter drawing is dated by Fischer to 1504-6, while the present one was probably executed some five earlier around the same time as the 'Last Judgement'.
It is likely that the left-hand figure of a kneeling woman was to appear in the same composition as the right-hand saint since they are studied together, although clearly not in the same relationship to each other. As Turner first observed, a pen study in the Uffizi of a female figure in a similar pose is found on the verso of an early study of Saint Jerome (290 E; Fischer no. 1, figs 1-2).
The drawing was transferred from Leonardo's name to that of Sogliani in March 1940 by A.E. Popham, and then to Fra Bartolommeo in 1946.
Lit.: J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London, 1876, no. 50 (as Leonardo); B. Berenson, 'The Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1938, II, no. 2732 (as Sogliani; idem 1961 edition); N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Florentine Drawings of the sixteenth century', 1986, no. 33 (with previous literature); C. Fischer, in exhib. cat., Florence, Uffizi, 'Disegni di Fra Bartolommeo e della sua scuola', 1986, under nos. 1, 2 , 3 and 24; I. Seligman, 'Lines of Thought', London, 2016, no. 34, p. 73.
Turner, Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century, London, 1986
This is one of the finest drapery studies of its type to have survived. Traditionally attributed to Leonardo, it was accepted as such by Robinson; Berenson gave it to Sogliani; and Degenhart to Fra Bartolommeo, along with all the other drapery studies of this type. Popham, who was at first inclined to agree with Berenson's attribution to Sogliani, later came to accept Fra Bartolommeo's authorship, noting its similarity in handling with 1895,0915.487, which he had already shown to be by the artist.
Most of the discussion about the drawing has concentrated on the right-hand figure, which is studied in three other drawings. Berenson observed the connection with one in an identical technique in the Uffizi (inv. no. 434E, his no. 2519); while Giglioli ('Bollettino d'arte', xxix, 1935, p. 490), without apparently being aware of either the British Museum drawing or of Uffizi inv. no. 434E, published two others, in pen, also in the Uffizi (inv. nos 290E and 284E). Although it would seem at first glance that the artist had followed tradition by constructing a small clay model, arranging it with drapery soaked in liquid clay, and drawing it several times, not only in brush with distemper on linen but also in pen, it is striking that in each of the studies the point of view of the figure is roughly the same. Had an actual model been made, it is likely that the artist would have wished to draw it from different view points. When the drapery configurations in each study are compared (except for that on 284E verso, which is a study for the pose of the nude figure with the position of the drapery only faintly indicated), they are all slightly different from each other: this would almost certainly not have been the case had the drawing been taken from a model.
The purpose of the figure remains obscure. It must have been intended as a St Jerome since one of the drawings published by Giglioli (inv. no. 284E) shows him kneeling beside some books and a stone, attributes of his penitence. As early as 1904 Jacobsen ('Jahrbuch der Königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen', xxv, 1904, p. 190), apropos of Uffizi inv. no. 434E, which he regarded as the work of Domenico Ghirlandaio, connected it with the figure of St Jerome in the now destroyed altarpiece of the 'Madonna and Child with Saints', from the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio, formerly in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin. This same conclusion as to the figure's purpose was also reached later and independently by Giglioli. However, there is little if any direct correspondence between the two figures, and the connection is far from proven.
Popham proposed an alternative identification. He believed the figure was identical with that of a kneeling apostle in the foreground of a drawing of the 'Ascension' by Fra Bartolommeo in the Uffizi (inv. no. 1237E; Gabelentz no. 175, repr. vol. ii, pl. 17). Gabelentz dated this drawing, in which he found connections with the 'Assumption of the Virgin' at Berlin and which, he suggested, may have been designed as a pendant to it, about 1505-6. But even if the pose repeats that of the figure on the right of the present drawing, it cannot be one and the same, since St Jerome is not represented at the 'Assumption of the Virgin'.
Popham rightly observed that the drapery of the woman kneeling on the left very closely resembles in reverse that of the kneeling Virgin in a drawing of the 'Coronation of the Vlrgin' also in the British Museum (inv. no. Pp,1.54), datable 1504-6. But the figure is not sufficiently close to justify the view that they are directly connected. It is likely that this female figure was to appear in the same composition as the right-hand figure, since the two are studied together. The possibility that the artist might also have been studying them together in one of the Uffizi drawings, inv. no. 290E, seems not to have been raised. On the verso of this latter drawing, the recto of which contains an early study for the St Jerome, there is a study of the drapery of a figure kneeling in profile which corresponds closely with that of the woman on the left of the British Museum drawing.
A drawing of the drapery of a kneeling man in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (inv. no. 15-1956) appears to be after the corresponding figure in the British Museum drawing, rather than inv. no. 434E in the Uffizi.
Literature: JCR 50; BB (1903) 2732; B. Degenhart, Munich Jahrbuch, N.F., xi, 1934, p. 224, n.; BB (1938) 2732; Popham, p. 35, n.; Fahy (1969), pp. 152f.; Fahy (1976), p. 69.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1986, BM, Florentine Drawings 16thC, no. 33
2016 3 Sep - 6 Nov, Poole Museum, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 34
2017 1 Jan - 25 Feb, The Brynmor Jones Library Art Gallery, University of Hull, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 34
2017 12 Mar - 5 May, Ulster Museum, Belfast, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 34
2017 May - Sep, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 34
2017-2018 Oct - Jan, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 34
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number