- Museum number
The expectant Virgin Appearing to Saint Simón de Rojas two putti above holding a plaque inscribed: 'AVE/MARIA', framed by an elaborate architectural surround
Pen and brown ink, brown and grey wash over black chalk partly incised
- Production date
- 1650 (c)
Height: 196 millimetres
Width: 125 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
Francisco Rizi trained with Vincente Carducho but being much younger his work reflects the artistic changes that took place in Madrid from the mid-1640s. In his biography of Claudio Coello, Antonio Palomino writes that Coello’s master Francisco Rizi was in the habit of making a sketch or quick notation of whatever work he had in hand – be it for a composition or for a perspective view – on any little piece of paper and then would tear it up and throw it away that Coello would then collect and carefully reassemble the pieces to study them (A. Palomino, 'Lives of the Eminent Spanish Painters and Sculptors', trans. N. Ayala Mallory, Cambridge 1987, pp.308-9). Palomino’s observations about Rizi’s commitment to drawing can be verified through his surviving sheets – and might also reflect a growing awareness of the importance of preserving drawings in the seventeenth century.
In this drawing the Virgin is shown as an expectant mother revealing the infant Christ within her womb to Simón de Rojas on account the words inscribed on the cartouche above 'Ave Maria' that according to accounts of his life, were the first words he said at the age of fourteen months and thereafter was devoted to the Virgin. Rizi represented the pregnant Mary in the background of his painting of the Dream of Joseph from around 1665 (Indianapolis Museum of Art). The form of the child conforms to a description by the theologian Pedro de Ribadeneira in his Lives of the Saints (Flos Sanctorum, 1643) as 'a small body, well-proportioned, and capable of receiving a rational soul'. The rays of light encircling the child allude to the light from the womb of Mary that illuminates the world (see María Cruz de Carlos Varona in 'Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World', exh. cat., Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis 2009, no.15).
The restraint and solidity of the carefully drawn figures is characteristic of Rizi's work from the middle years of the seventeenth century. The architectural frame enclosing the figures comprises a plinth, an elaborate arched moulding and putti that seem to leap off the ledge toward the figures below. Rizi employed the illusionistic proscenium arch to indicate deep perspective in his painting of The Virgin and Child Adored by Saints Philip and Francis in the Capuchin Church of El Pardo painted in 1650. Two drawings for this painting survive, the first a partly finished study laying out the main elements of the composition (Uffizi, Florence), and the second a much more refined study that is very similar to the present work (Instituto Valencia de Don Juan, Madrid). Rizi evidently planned his drawings in several stages and the finished sheets might have been intended to present to the patron, or as a record of his work.
Llamas Delgado has identified this drawing and another two in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid as part of a design for an altar in the chapel of the Shod Trinitarian in Madrid. The pronounced three-dimensional elements in this drawing suggests it to be a study of a niche with sculpted figures set on a pedestal. Rizi’s activity as a theatre designer is important for understanding this drawing, in particular the plasticity of its forms. He was Director of stage design for the Coliseo Theatre of the Buen Retiro in Madrid in the 1640s and responsible for the street decorations and temporary architectural structures for the entry of Mariana of Austria in Madrid in 1649. Rizi’s theatre work provided a model for the scenographic altarpiece that became so important in Madrid during the second half of the seventeenth century.
J.C. Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London 1869 (re-published 1876), no.429 (as Alonso Cano); M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.97-98; E. Llamas-Delgado, 'Partnership between painters and sculptors in 17th c Spain: on model drawings by Francisco Rizi for an altarpiece of the Expectant Virgin', RIHA Journal 0063 (online); M. P. McDonald, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya’, exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, cat.no.13.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, Spanish Drawings, (no cat)
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number