- Museum number
The vision of St Augustine; interior with the saint seated at a desk, a sculpture in a niche beyond
Pen and brown ink, with grey wash, over leadpoint and the architectural setting with stylus (some drawn with a ruler or a compass)
- Production date
- 1501-1508 (circa)
Height: 278 millimetres
Width: 426 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Watermark (top left): AVo monogram
A finished compositional study for the painting in the Scuola di S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice (Lauts Catalogue of Paintings no. 14, pp. 232-3, pls. 102,104-5). The Scuola was a charitable institution for the Dalmation community in Venice established in 1451 under the protection of St. George, St. Tryphon (patron saint of the town of Cattaro) and later St Jerome. Carpaccio's cycle of nine paintings honouring these saints (along with two depicting episodes from the life of Christ) were executed c. 1501-8 (see Lauts pp. 230-4). The interior of the building was remodelled in the second half of the 16th century and it is unclear if their present location on the ground floor is the original one.
The highly pictorial nature of the drawing, especially in the observation of light, unusual for Carpaccio may suggest it was made for the approval of the patrons. Muraro was inclined to think it a drawing made after the painting by Carpaccio for documentary purposes, perhaps while awaiting instruction on how to portray the saint's features (for the various theories as to who is portrayed in the guise of the saint see Aikema p. 219). The idea that it is a documentary drawing after the painting seems unlikely on two counts. Firstly, why would Carpaccio need to make such a detailed record of a painting he knew would remain in Venice; in addition the highly unusual subject matter would not make it composition that could readily be recycled. It is more common to find XVc artists making highly finished drawings which seem to have been made before work on the painting began, probably for the approval of the patron: such as the BM Filippino Lippi 'Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas' (1860,0616.75; Popham and Pouncey no. 131). The contrast between Carpaccio's meticulous attention to the setting and his more cursory treatment of the figure is paralleled in the compositional drawing in the University Library, Uppsala for the 'Funeral of St Jerome' in the same cycle (Lauts Catalogue of Drawings no. 50, fig. 96; Muraro fig. 18). Popham and Pouncey rightly discounted Van Marle's suggestion that only the outlines of the drawing are by Carpaccio and that the shading was added by another hand. The differences between the finished painting and the study are small: the most notable is the substitution of a dog for a cat (or perhaps more likely a weasle or ermine) observing the saint. The best analysis of the drawing is provided by Caroline Brooke in her recent article.
The subject of the work was thought to be St Jerome in his study until Helen Roberts in 1959 pointed out that it depicted an episode from an apocryphal letter attributed to St Augustine. According to this Augustine had just sat in his study one evening to write a letter to Jerome concerning the bliss of souls in Paradise, when 'suddenly an indescribable light, not seen in our times ... entered the cell where I was'. This revealed to him that Jerome had just died in Bethlehem and was entering eternal bliss. The voice of St Jerome told him that it was presumptuous for a mortal to try to comprehend such a state. The importance of dazzling light to the narrative of Augustine's revelation probably explains why Carpaccio so punctiliously captures the effect of bright light streaming through the windows on the right. That the effulgence illuminating the saint is celestial rather than natural is subtly revealed through the fall of light in the messy study glimpsed through the door on the left, where the fall of the shadows on the window surround show that the sunlight is coming from the left through the barred window as in the painting (a detail observed by Daniel Godfrey).
The medium of the drawing has been confirmed by Satoko Tanimoto and Giovanni Verri from the Department of Scientific Research in a campaign of investigation of the Italian 15th century drawings linked to the forthcoming 2010 exhibition. The analytical methods employed have been non-destructive and non-contact ones: infrared and ultraviolet imaging, with XRF and Raman spectrometry.
Lit.: A.E. Popham, 'A Drawing by Carpaccio', "British Museum Quarterly", VIII, 1933-4, pp 83-4; R. van Marle, 'The Development of the Italian School of Paintings', XVIII, 1936, p. 336; H. Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat, 'The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries', New York, 1944, no. 617; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 35, II, pl. XXVIII (with previous literature); H.I. Roberts, 'St Augustine in "St Jerome's Study": Carpaccio's painting and its Legendary Source', "Art Bulletin", XLI, 1959, p. 293, fig. 20; J. Lauts, 'Carpaccio, paintings and drawings', London, 1962, no. 27, pp. 271-2, pl. 103; M. Murano, 'I disegni di Vittore Carpaccio', Florence 1977, pp. 53-4, fig.17 (with further literature); D. Scrase, in exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, 'The Genius of Venice', 1983, no. D11; A. Gentili, 'Le Storie di Carpaccio. Venezia, i Turchi, gli Ebrei', Venice, 1996, p. 87, fig. 58; D. Thornton, 'The Scholar in his Study: ownership and experience in Renaissance Italy', New Haven and London, 1997, fig. 28; B. Aikema, in exhib. cat.,Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 'Renaissance Venice and the North', 1999, no. 18; R. Verdi, in exhib. cat., London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved! 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund', 2003; C. Brooke, 'Vittore Carpaccio's Method of Composition in his Drawings for the Scuola di S. Giorgio "Teleri", "Master Drawings", 42, Winter 2004, pp. 303-14, fig. 1; C. Van Cleave, 'Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance', London, 2007, p. 106, illustrated p. 107; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 80, pp.266-7 (cat. entry by H. Chapman).
Popham & Pouncey 1950
Study, with only slight deviations, for the painting in the Scuola di S. Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice (Van Marle, xviii, fig. 152). It is one of three scenes in the Scuola, illustrating the life of S. Jerome, one of which (see SL,5237.13) is dated 1502. The present drawing is a study for the 'mise-en-scène', the figure being merely indicated in pen outline. Van Marle's idea that only the outlines are by Carpaccio and that the shading has been added by another hand is inept: there can be no doubt about the unity and originality of the drawing. It is not mentioned by Hadeln or Fiocco, since it came to light only after the publication of their works.
Literature: A. E. Popham, B.M.Q., ix (1934/5), p. 83 (repr.); Van Marle, xviii, p. 336; A. E. Popham, Vasari Society, Second Series, xvi (1935), no. 4; Tietzes, no. 617, pl. xxi, 1.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1972, BM, 'The Art of Drawing', No. 114
1983/4 Nov-Mar, London, Royal Academy, 'Genius of Venice', no. D11
1999 Sep-Dec, Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 'Renaissance Venice and the North', no.
2003-/ Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved!100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund', no.47
2010 April-July, BM, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo`, no.80
2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.80
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired by the NACF from Colnaghi for £650 for presentation to the BM.
This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number