- Museum number
Charlemagne confirming the Donation of Ravenna; the Emperor enthroned, surrounded by figures
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, on blue paper
Verso: A standing man
- Production date
Height: 400 millimetres
Width: 538 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The related fresco is illustrated in colour on p. 149 of Cristina Acidini Luchinat's recent monograph (on p. 55, n. 76 she lists other studies for the Charlemagne fresco).
Lit.: A.E. Popham, 'Catalogue of Drawings in the Collection formed by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart., F.R.S., now in the possession of his Grandson, T. Fitzroy Phillipps Fenwick of Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham', I, London, 1935, pp. 114-15, no. 1; J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, Artists working in Rome', London, 1983, no. 335; C. Acidini Luchinat, 'Taddeo e Federico Zuccari, fratelli pittori del cinquecento', Milan, 1998, I, p. 150, fig. 33; J. Brooks, in exhib. cat., Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 'Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro, Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome', 2007, p. 63, fig. 18 (with incorrect registration number)
Gere & Pouncey 1983
Attributed in the Lawrence-Woodburn Sale Catalogue to Federico Zuccaro and described as "King John signing Magna Charta"; but in fact, as Popham was the first to point out, a study by Taddeo Zuccaro for the 'soprapporta' fresco of Charlemagne confirming his father Pepin's gift of Ravenna to the States of the Church, over one of the doorways in the Sala Regia in the Vatican (Voss, fig. 170; Venturi, ix5, fig. 5I3; Gere, pl. 155), the first payment for which is recorded in May 1564 (Bertolotti, 'Urbinati', p. 18). Recent cleaning has revealed the inscription "LXIIII" on the document held by the figure to the r. of Charlemagne (see F. Mancinelli, 'Monumenti Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, Bollettino', i, 1 (1959-74), p. 139).
Of the known studies for the composition (see Gere, pp. 103ff., pls. 151-3), this is the latest. It agrees with the final result fairly closely in the general arrangement of the figures, the most significant difference being the greater prominence of Charlemagne in the fresco, where the document is presented for his signature, not by the secretary as in the drawing, but by a small page-boy. The only exact correspondence is in the figures drawn on the separate strip of paper on the r., which represent a change of mind on the artist's part. To make the alteration he simply cut off the strip, turned it over, and reattached it. The tips of the scrolls which the secretary is holding under his arm can be seen on a level with the verso figure's chest and establish his original position in the group.
The upper part of the same discarded figure appears, on a lower level than the rest of the group, in the lower r.-hand corner of a drawing in the Teyler Museum, Haarlem (A 44; Gere 83), made up of two fragments of what seems, apart from the addition of this one figure, to have been an exact repetition of 1946,0713.108. The figures of Charlemagne and his secretary have been cut out and the two remaining pieces fitted together in such a way that the half-figure in the r. foreground comes immediately beneath the page holding the inkstand to the l. of Charlemagne.
In the earlier studies, Taddeo is experimenting with figures on two levels, and the Haarlem drawing, which must be later in date than 1946,0713.108 since it embodies the alteration on the r.-hand side, shows him harking back to this two-level arrangement at a stage when the composition had reached what is essentially its final form. Vestiges of it even in 1946,0713.108 are the half-length figure which seems to emerge from the ground in the r. foreground, and the apparently disembodied head visible behind the dog on the l. In the final result the half-length figure is transformed into a large plumed helmet lying on the steps of the throne and the disembodied head disappears altogether.
The same changes are made in a drawing at Windsor (6849; Popham, no. 1070, fig. 202) which otherwise corresponds with 1946,0713.108. Popham catalogues this drawing as the work of Taddeo himself, but in our opinion it is from the hand of a studio-assistant.
The arrangement of the figures on two levels also persists in Louvre RF 38.406 ('Revue du Louvre', June, 1981, p. 185, fig. 13), the l.-hand side of a study very closely related to 1946,0713.108 and probably just preceding it, which has been cut vertically so that only half the figure of Charlemagne is left. The principal difference between the Louvre drawing and 1946,0713.108 is that the place of the full-length standing man in 1946,0713.108 is occupied by a half-length figure wearing a plumed helmet, posed so that his r. shoulder and face and r. shoulder are turned to the spectator and his head is on a level with Charlemagne's r. knee.
The figure seen from behind in the l. foreground of 1946,0713.108 does not occur in the Sala Regia fresco, but was used by Federico Zuccaro in studies in the Uffizi (11029F; Gernsheim 11368) and in Berlin (16436; Voss, fig. 177) for the 'Flagellation', dated 1573, in the Oratory of S. Lucia del Gonfalone.
Literature: A.E. Popham, OMD, vii (1932/3), p 42; Popham, Fenwick, p. 114; Gere 104.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1972, BM, 'The Art of Drawing', No. 144
1984, BM, 'Master Drawings and Watercolours in the British Museum', No. 24
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number