- Museum number
The Crucifixion, study for an engraving; Christ on the cross with St John, one of the Maries and his mother below
Brush drawing in brown wash, heightened with white (partly oxidised), over black chalk, indented for transfer
- Production date
- 1662 (circa)
Height: 317 millimetres
Width: 187 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London, 1876, no. 224* (as Pietro da Cortona; the asterix denotes it was acquired after J.C. Robinson's involvement with the Malcolm collection); N. Turner, 'Italian Baroque Drawings', London, 1980, no. 25; N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 95
This is a finished design, in reverse, for the engraving by Cornelis Bloemaert (Hollstein, 1949-, II, p. 72, no.33) which was included as an illustration in the 'Missale romanum' of Alexander VII, published in Rome in 1662 ('ex typographia Reverendae Camerae Apostolicae'), for which see1981,0725.9. In all, Ferri designed seven of the illustrations; the other six are the 'Circumcision', the 'Last Supper', the 'Resurrection', the 'Pentecost', 'SS Peter and Paul in Prison' and 'St Martina on the Pyre' (see Graf, [forthcoming]).
Drawings for four of these other six engravings survive and are carried out in the same technique and to the same degree of finish as the present drawing; all four drawings are in the reverse direction to the printed compositions. The drawing of the 'Circumcision' is in a private collection (New York, 1967, no. 126), and was engraved by François Spierre. The drawing of the 'Last Supper' is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and was engraved by Bloemaert (Hollstein, 1949-, II, p.72, no.29); like the present drawing it also belonged to John Bouverie and the 1st Earl of Gainsborough. The drawing of the 'Resurrection' was formerly on the London art market (sale, Christie's, 12 December 1985, lot 218) and was engraved by Cornells Bloemaert (Hollstein, 1949-, II, p. 72, no. 34). For the drawing of 'St Martina on the Pyre', which was engraved by Giovanni Battista Bonacina, see 1946,0713.749.
In the British Museum drawing, there are a number of pentimenti for the position of the Cross in the upper nght, just above the right cross beam, and at the centre, to either side of the upright beam. According to one, in black chalk, at the upper right, the cross was to have been positioned directly facing the spectator (i.e. parallel to the foreground plane); according to another, just below Christ's left arm, it was to have been slanted more steeply into space than in the finished solution.
Along the centre of the drawing, the position of the upright beam was shifted both to the left and to the right before a definitive solution was reached, the previous attempts concealed with brown wash and bodycolour.
The composition of the present drawing was openly based on that of Pietro da Cortona's high altarpiece of 'Christ on the Cross with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and St John' in S. Tommaso da Villanova, Castelgandolfo, of c. 1661 (Briganti, 1962 and 1982, fig.286, no. 20), framed as an elongated oval. There, as in one of the pentimenti in the present drawing, the Cross is positioned so that it is directly parallel to the foreground plane; but otherwise the attitude of the figures is, with some slight variations, much the same except in reverse, especially in that of the Virgin. The similarity between the two compositions is perhaps even better understood when the British Museum drawing is compared with Pietro da Cortona's finished preparatory drawing for the Castelgandolfo altarpiece, formerly at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, and now in the J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (inv.no.92.GB.79; Turner, Hendrix and Plazzotta, 1997, no. 35).
Lo Bianco (1990, II, p. 126) suggested that the present drawing might have been used as the basis for a studio version of the Castelgandolfo picture, in S.Maria in Via Lata, Rome, which has the same rectangular format. This seems unlikely, first, because the British Museum drawing is so specifically the modello for Bloemaert's print, with all its outlines carefully gone over with the stylus for transfer, and, second, because the ex-Holkham drawing not only combines both the oval and rectangular formats, but is also squared for transfer for both: it would thus seem more likely that it, rather than the British Museum drawing, was used for the preparation of the S.Maria in Via Lata picture.
Literature: Robinson, 1869, no. 214; Robinson, 1876, no. 224; Below, 1932, p. 101; Blunt and Cooke, 1960, under no. 136; Briganti, 1962, p. 305 (as Pietro da Cortona, as in all preceding refs); London, 1977, under no. 44; Turner, 1979(b), p. 77, fig.4 (as Ferri, as in all following refs); Turner, 1980, no. 25; Davis, 1986, pp.87, 159, 220-21 and fig.47; Lo Bianco, 1990, II, p. 126; Turner, Hendrix and Plazzotta, 1997, under no. 35; Graf, [forthcoming].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1996, BM, Malcolm Drawings, apx.
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
- Acquisition notes
- Turner 1999
The drawing entered the Museum with the Malcolm collection as by Pietro da Cortona, and was transferred to Ciro Ferri in October 1977.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number