- Museum number
The Agony in the Garden; Christ kneeling in prayer, looking up to heaven, a putto before him, Peter, James and John sleeping in the foreground, figures beneath trees behind at r, with an alternative figure of Christ holding his arms out (on original sheet)
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, the figure of Christ heightened with white
- Production date
Height: 139 millimetres
Width: 401 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- A study for the 'Agony in the Garden' in the Pitti (1912 n. 385). Following Barocchi's ascription of the drawing to Gherardi, and Cecchi's reattribution of the painting on the basis of the drawing, Turner gave the latter to the same author, although he was, as his final remarks make clear, unsatisfied with the hypothesis, feeling a divergence between the prevailing consensus about the picture and the style of the drawing, which he felt to be very close to Vasari. This conflict is now more easily reconcilable thanks to a revision of opinion about the authorship of the painting, which scholars are now much more willing to accept as the work of Vasari himself. This reattribution has been accompanied by a considerable revision of date: Härb, for example, has moved it to the early 1570s, well over a decade after Gherardi's death, noting similarities between the first idea for Christ and two similar pictures of the 'Agony in the Garden' in Tokyo and Camaldoli respectively, dated between 1570 and 1572 (illustrated in Härb, p. 556, nos. 373.1 and 2). The addition of a flap with a revised figure of Christ was presumably motivated by the artist's dissatisfaction with his first attempt. The former is numbered 1948,0710.8(a), and is mounted over the rest of the sheet.
Lit.: F. Barocchi, 'Vasari Pittore', Milan, 1964, pp. 27, 103-4; A. Cecchi, "Qualche contributo al corpus grafico del Vasari e del suo ambiente", in 'Il Vasari storiografo e artista: Atti del Convegno internazionale nel IV centenario della morte', Florence, 1976, p. 153; Exhibition Catalogue: 'Italian 16th and 17th Century Drawings', Tokyo/Nagoya, 1996, no. 22; F. Härb, ‘The Drawings of Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)’, Rome, 2015, pp. 557-8, no. 374 (with previous literature).
Turner, Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century, London, 1986
Attributed to Vasari by Popham, it has since been proposed as the work of the artist's collaborator, Cristofano Gherardi, by Barocchi, who noted certain "stylistic and iconographical affinities" with paintings in the sacristy at S. Giovanni a Carbonara, Naples (1545-6), in which Gherardi is known to have had a hand. Barocchi further referred to the possibility of a connection with one of "cinque quadri della Passione di Cristo" mentioned in Vasari's 'Ricordi'; these were painted for Raffaello Acciaiuoli while the artist was in Rome in 1545 and included "un Cristo, quando egli orà nell'orto con gli apostoli".
But as Popham pointed out, the composition of 1943,0710.8 is clearly connected with that of a small painting on panel in the Pitti Gallery which was formerly given to Girolamo da Carpi but is now classified as sixteenth-century Florentine School (see A. Serafini, 'Girolamo da Carpi pittore e architetto ferrarese', Rome, 1915, fig. 83 bis); this was rejected as the work of Carpi by Mezzetti (A. Mezzetti, 'Girolamo da Ferrara detto da Carpi', Milan, 1977, p. 87, no. 86). The Pitti painting corresponds more or less exactly in the poses of the figures and in their relationship to each other, but does not appear to show the landscape background with the soldiers entering the garden on the left, and the rest of the Apostles grouped under trees on the right: the corresponding passage in the painting being rendered as an unmodulated dark.
The purpose of the panel is not known. Popham suggested that it might have been intended for a predella.
The former attribution to Vasari has much to recommend it; the drawing seems, to the compiler at least, to show few of the characteristics of Gherardi.
Literature: Barocchi (1964), p. 27 and pp. 130f., no. 33b.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1986, BM, Florentine Drawings 16thC, no. 123
1996 Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Nat Mus Western Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no. 22
1996 Apr-May, Nagoya, Aichi Pref Mus of Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no. 22
- 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 218.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number