- Museum number
St Ercolano; whole-length, slightly to left, with head lowered reading a book
Metalpoint, with grey-brown wash, heightened with white, on light brown prepared paper
- Production date
- 1456-1523 (circa)
Height: 175 millimetres
Width: 70 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Acquired as by Cosimo Rosselli. Pouncey recognized that this is a study for the figure of St Ercolano, the patron saint of Perugia, on the right of the altarpiece painted by Signorelli in 1484 for the Vagnucci family chapel dedicated to St Onofrio in the cathedral of Perugia. Kury's suggestion that the sheet is in fact a copy after a lost study by Signorelli has not gained acceptance, and Signorelli's authorship has since been reasserted by Van Cleave. This is the artist's only known metalpoint drawing, and one of the few securely datable drawings by him. One other drawing for this commission is known: a cartoon for the head of the Baptist now in Stockholm (9/1863).
Lit: B. Berenson, 'The Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1938, II, p. 309, cat. 2386 (as Cosimo Rosselli) A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 234, II, pl. CCII (with previous literature); B. Berenson, 'I Disegni dei Pittori Fiorentini', Milan, 1961, cat. 2509 E-6-1 (as Signorelli); G. Kury, 'The Early Works of Luca Signorelli: 1465-1490', PhD diss., Yale, 1974, Garland ed., New York, 1978, p. 368, pl. 47; N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'The Study of Italian Drawings: The Contribution of Philip Pouncey', 1994, no. 13, p. 16; C. Van Cleave, 'Luca Signorelli as a Draughtsman', unpublished D.Phil. diss, Oxford, 1995, cat. 19, pp. 140-42; Idem., "Signorelli Disegnatore" and cat. entry, in 'Luca Signorelli', exh. cat., Perugia, Orvieto and Città di Castello, 2012, p. 323, no. 60.
Popham & Pouncey 1950
Resta regarded this drawing as a pendant to the drapery study by Giovanni Bellini (1902,0822.4) and believed it to be by that artist. Berenson attributed it in 1906 to Cosimo Rosselli, an attribution which he half-heartedly retains in his new edition, in spite of the admitted connection with Signorelli. The drawing in fact corresponds, with minor variations, with the S. Ercolano on the r. of Signorelli's altar-piece in the chapel of S. Onofrio in the Duomo of Perugia (K. der K. 40), once dated 1484, and is clearly an original study, primarily a drapery study, for this figure by Signorelli himself. The degree and character of the differences between it and the painting make this quite unmistakable. The style fits in very well with that of Signorelli, whose individual touch seems to us recognizable. The only other drawing connected with this altar-piece known to us is that in black chalk at Stockholm (BB 25091), corresponding with the head of the Baptist. Its outlines are pricked, it seems to be of the same size as the head in the painting, and is no doubt a fragment of the cartoon. The different purpose for which it was made explains the obvious difference between it and the British Museum drawing.
We have called the bishop S. Ercolano on the authority of Vasari, but Girolamo Mancini, the local historian of Cortona, calls attention ('L'Arte', ii (1899), p. 496) to the fact that he is represented without a halo and suggests that he is in fact the donor of the altar-piece, Giacomo Vagnucci of Cortona, bishop of Perugia from 1449 to 1482 and subsequently archbishop of Nicaea (d. Jan. 1487). The head looks like a portrait and the features might be those of the aged Vagnucci, but in that case he can only have served as a model for the S. Ercolano; he would hardly have presumed to have himself represented as the counterpart to S. Onofrio. The figure was copied by Domenico di Paride Alfani in his altar-piece of 1518 in the Perugia Gallery (repr. Crowe and Cavalcaselle, v, opp. p. 488) where it is distinguished as S. Nicholas and has a halo.
This little drawing is of considerable interest as a study from life and as the earliest datable sketch by Signorelli (together with the cartoon fragment referred to above) and also as an example of his use of metal-point. The only other examples known to us are the sheet with four nudes at Dresden (BB 2509 C: wrongly stated by Berenson to be in black chalk) and the very damaged 'S. George' in the Ashmolean Museum (BB 2509 G-1).
Literature: BB 2386; A. E. Popham, O.M.D., xi, (1936/7), p. 18, pl.14.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994, BM, 'The Study of Italian Drawings', No. 13
1998/9 Nov-Jan, London NG, 'Signorelli'
2012 Apr-Aug, Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. 'Luca Signorelli'.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Inscribed with Resta no: "i.29"
Acquired from P & D Colnaghi in exchange for duplicates.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number