- Museum number
The Adoration of the newborn Christ; the Virgin Mary and Joseph kneeling on either side of the infant with shepherds behind , the manger beyond
Brush drawing in brown ink, over black chalk; pricked for transfer
- Production date
- 1500-1510 (circa)
Height: 396 millimetres
Width: 283 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- A Perugino school panel painting exactly corresponding in composition to this is in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (inv.no 1943-265). Todini catalogues the latter as a work by a Tuscan follower of Perugino, F. Todini, 'La Pittura Umbra dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento', Milan, 1989, I, p. 275. Ferino Pagden suggests that a drawing of a kneeling saint at Shrubland (photo Witt Library) might be the same hand.
Watermark: three monticules.
Lit.: J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London, 1876, no. 157 (as Perugino); A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 192, II, pl. CLIV (with previous literature); S. Ferino Pagden, in exhib. cat., Florence, Uffizi, 'Disegni Umbri del Rinascimento da Perugino a Raffaello', 1982, under no. 11
Popham & Pouncey 1950
The Malcolm Catalogue quotes two inscriptions (from a former mount?): "(1) Pietro Perugino o più tosto del Pinturicchio" (ascribed in the catalogue to the younger Richardson) ; (2) stated to have been "on the reverse" : "The first or second altar on the right hand, in the Madonna del Popolo, in Rome, and there also ascribed to Pinturicchio.—J. R., jun." (the signature of the younger Richardson). The drawing was attributed in the Malcolm Catalogue to Perugino; and, after its entry into the British Museum, to Lo Spagna. It is not mentioned by Fischel. It corresponds, in many respects, with Perugino's fresco in the Cambio at Perugia (K. derK. 112), painted about 1500, but in the drawing the stone colonnade has been replaced by a wooden barn—this or a very similar structure is, however, to be found in various later 'Nativities' or 'Adorations' (K. der K. 125,127, 149 bottom, 158,159,172,189,218, 219)—the singing angels are omitted and the shepherd kneeling to the l. of the Virgin is different, as are also the Infant Christ and background figures. Nearly all these variations occur in one or other of the compositions just enumerated; the earliest datable appearance of an infant in this attitude is a putto in the allegorical picture painted for Isabella d'Esté in 1505 (K. der K. 129).
The architecture, as the perspective lines ruled with a stylus show, seems to have been constructed as in the sketch for the Città della Pieve 'Adoration' (Fischel, 'Umbrer', no. 89, pl. x). The stylus lines do not always correspond with the finished architecture: e.g. two semicircles have been drawn with the compass in roughly the same relation to the composition as the arched vault in the Cambio fresco. Although the lines are made with the point of the brush, they look like pen-work, which is unusual with Umbrian drawings (the small cartoon at Vienna (Fischel, 'Umbrer', no. 125, fig. 282) is a brush drawing of a quite different type).
The drawing cannot be, as Robinson believed, Perugino's original sketch for the large Cambio fresco. It has the characteristics, not of a preliminary sketch, but of a small cartoon like Raphael's for the 'Knight's Dream' in the National Gallery. It was most likely produced in the workshop by one of Perugino's abler assistants, probably between about 1500 and 1510. It is not impossible that it is by Spagna, to whom it was ascribed after its entry into the Museum.
Literature: JCR 157.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1962/3 Nov-Sep, BM, Raphael and his Circle
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