- Museum number
Head and shoulders of a mother in the Massacre of the Innocents: a fragment of the 'Scuola Nuova' tapestry cartoon; turned to right, her eye and mouth wide open
Brush drawing in grey-brown wash and bodycolour, with pen and black ink, heightened with white, on several sheets conjoined of light grey-brown prepared paper
- Production date
Height: 575 millimetres
Width: 485 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and His Circle', London, 1962, I, no. 138, II, pl. 111
Pouncey & Gere 1962
Both heads occur in the 'Scuola Nuova' 'Massacre of the Innocents' in the Vatican. This consists of three separate panels of tapestry. 1947,0414.1 is the head of an onlooker in a window in the background of the section reproduced by E. Muntz on the l. of p. 39 of 'Les Tapisseries de Raphaël au Vatican', Paris, 1897; 1942,0711.13 is that of a mother in the centre of the section reproduced on p. 40.
Fischel (Thieme-Becker, xxix, p. 442) dates the commission of the 'Scuola Nuova' series 1524. Müntz (op. cit., pp. 36 ff.) believes that these tapestries were those commissioned in a contract of 27 June 1520, that the work was interrupted by the death of Leo X and the pontificate of Adrian VI, and that the payment of October 1524 signifies a resumption by Clement VII of the earlier negotiations. Though these contracts, etc. (the first of which was made only a few weeks after Raphael's death) are with Pieter van Aelst and refer to the weaving of the tapestries, not to the preparation of the cartoons, there is no reason for supposing that Raphael himself was in any way responsible for the designs. Drawings of the three 'Massacre of the Innocents' compositions, in the Teyler Museum, Haarlem (A. 85, a, b and c), differ from the tapestries in details of background figures, landscapes, etc., and are to all appearances by the same hand as other Raphael school drawings, e.g. those connected with the 'Logge', which we attribute to G. F. Penni (see pp. 50 ff.). Giulio Romano and Penni were named in Raphael's will as his joint artistic heirs, but all evidence suggests that Giulio thereafter directed the operations of the workshop, while Penni's role remained an executive one much as it had been in Raphael's lifetime. The Haarlem drawings are analogous to those connected with the 'Logge', in that they have not the appearance of preliminary studies but seem rather to be fair copies based on designs by another. Everything about the tapestries themselves suggests that Giulio was in fact the designer: many of the facial types, poses and gestures, and such details as the elaborate furniture (e.g. in the 'Supper at Emmaus') and coiffures are characteristic of him; a certain heaviness and tendency towards the grotesque anticipate his Mantuan style; so also does the exaggerated way in which all three sections of the 'Massacre' are conceived as sarcophagus-like high reliefs of interlocked figures. Borrowings from Raphael are evident in some of the dazzled soldiers in the 'Resurrection' tapestry (cf. 1854,0513.11), but the stance and the type of the figure of the Risen Christ, and the heavy rusticated opening to the tomb, point to Giulio as the author. The tapestry of 'The Presentation' has affinities with the painting of 'The Circumcision' in the Louvre, obviously by Giulio but inexplicably ignored by Hartt.
Other fragments of cartoons for the 'Massacre of the Innocents' are known: four in the Ashmolean (Parker 599 to 602, not repr.) and one at Christ Church (T. Borenius, 'Pictures by the Old Masters in the Library of Christ Church, Oxford', Oxford, 1916, pl. xxviii). Ruland lists another as in the possession of Earl Spencer at Althorp House (p. 255, no. 28). A cartoon for the whole group of figures in the section reproduced by Müntz on the r.-hand side of p. 39 is in the Foundling Hospital, London.*
No repetitions of the Scuola Nuova tapestries are recorded, to our knowledge, and there is nothing about the surviving cartoon-fragments (none of which duplicates another and all of which, so far as we have been able to ascertain, are in reverse to the tapestries) to compel a dating later than the period of the original commission. It is at least theoretically possible that they all formed part of the original cartoons.
* Fischel (Thieme-Becker) calls this the central section, but in a chiaroscuro woodcut dated 1544 by the Master NDB (B. xii, p. 33, 7) as well as in two drawings, at Turin (Bertini 369) and in the British Museum (Pp,1.79; Ruland, p. 255, no. 16), in all of which the three groups of figures are juxtaposed unaltered to form one continuous composition, this group appears on the l. In the tapestries and in the Haarlem drawings the backgrounds are not continuous, and since each group of figures is evidently conceived as an entity, it is clear that the three panels of tapestry were intended as separate compositions.
It will be noted that the panel of tapestry corresponding with the Foundling Hospital cartoon differs from the other two in showing the assassins l.-handed and must therefore have been woven the wrong way round. This anomaly is not found in the woodcut, the Haarlem drawings or the drawing in Turin: in all of these, the other two sections are in the same direction as the tapestries, while the third is in reverse and shows the group as it should have been woven.
The Turin drawing seems to date from the first half of the sixteenth century. The British Museum version is a weak copy. Both drawings bear the Lanière mark (L 2885) three times, once under each group.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/91 Oct-Jan, London, Dulwich Picture Gallery, 'Le Brun', no. 21
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- 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.
Purchased through the sale of duplicates from the Malcolm collection and recorded as Malcolm Addition 200.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number