- Museum number
The Dormition of the Virgin, study for a fresco; interior with the Virgin lying on a wooden structure, surrounded by figures including one holding a menorah, several reading and one holding a palm leaf
Pen and brown ink and brown wash, heightened with white (partly oxidised), squared for transfer, on brown prepared paper
- Production date
Height: 349 millimetres
Width: 271 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Acquired as by Federico Zuccaro. Transferred to Taddeo 21.iii.1955 by J.A.Gere on the basis of Vasari's explicit statement that it was by him.
Study for the lower part of the fresco of the 'Dormition of the Virgin' in the Pucci chapel in SS. Trinità dei Monti, Rome (see illustration in Acidini Lucinat 1998, I, p. 268). In the recent monograph, Cristina Acidini Luchinat attributes the present drawing to Taddeo Zuccaro. In a recent article James Mundy convincingly argues that it was Federico who was principally responsible for the design of the chapel rather than his elder brother Taddeo, and that the BM drawing is by him. He also publishes a study in a private collection by Federico for the figures to the right of the Virgin's bier in the 'Dormition' (Mundy fig. 4).
Lit: J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, Artists working in Rome', London, 1983, no. 294; J. Labbé and L. Bicart-Sée, 'La collection de dessins d'Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville: reconstituée d'après son abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres, édition de 1762', Paris, 1996, p. 56; C. Acidini Luchinat, 'Taddeo e Federico Zuccari, fratelli pittori del cinquecento', Milan, 1998, I, pp. 268 and 281, n. 20 (as Taddeo Zuccaro); J. Mundy, 'Additions to and Observations on Federico Zuccaro's Drawings from the Critical 1560s', "Master Drawings", XLIII, Summer 2005, p. 162, fig. 3
Gere & Pouncey 1983
Inscribed: "Taddeo Zucchero" but on entering the Museum, before the connection with the SS. Trinità painting was observed, placed under the name of Federico Zuccaro. 1946,0713.1537 and 1949,0812.9 are studies respectively for the upper and lower parts of the fresco on the l.-hand side wall of the north transept of the church of SS. Trinità dei Monti in Rome. The decoration of this chapel, begun in the 1520s by Perino del Vaga for Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci, was interrupted by the Sack of Rome in 1527. In 1562 the patronage of the chapel was acquired by Giacomo Caucho, Archbishop of Corfù, who by a contract dated 8 June 1563 (Bertolotti, 'Bolognesi', [part] ii, pp. 46ff.) commissioned Taddeo Zuccaro to complete the decoration with three paintings, 'The Death of the Virgin', 'The Assumption', and 'Augustus and the Sibyl'. Vasari (vii, p. 101) says that Taddeo had completed 'The Death of the Virgin' and was working on the 'Assumption' at the time of his death on 2 September 1566. The decoration was continued by Federico and finished, according to an inscription on the 'Assumption', in 1589.
Another drawing connected with this composition is in the Louvre (4534; Gere, 'Louvre Exh.', 1969, no. 56, repr.). The Louvre drawing is a more fully worked out version of 1946,0713.1537 recto, corresponding in every detail with the upper part of the painting. It is to within 2 mm the same width as 1949,0812.9, and the correspondence between the vertical lines of the squaring in the two drawings, and between the pen strokes indicating the curtain, etc., show that they originally formed part of the same sheet. An old copy of the whole sheet, corresponding exactly with 1949,0812.9/Louvre 4534, was in one of the parcels (lots 129 to 137) in Sotheby's sale of 25 June 1970 (photo in BM).
The relation of 1949,0812.9/Louvre 4534 to the painting is that of a preliminary study rather than a copy. Though the two correspond very closely, there are differences in the poses of more than one figure in the lower part of the composition; the drawing also includes a 'pentimento' for the handle of the bier and is squared. Such a connection with a painting attributable to Taddeo on the contemporary evidence of Vasari provides a strong 'prima facie' case in favour of Taddeo's authorship of the drawing; but this belongs to the group of carefully finished studies connected with his later commissions in which the distinction between him and Federico is far from obvious. On the other hand, the studies on either side of 1946,0713.1537 are unmistakably characteristic of Federico in style, and the relation between the recto and verso suggests that it was he and not Taddeo who was responsible for the design of the upper part of the composition. Louvre 4534 is a working-out or elaboration of 1946,0713.1537 recto; when the two are placed alongside it seems impossible to see them as the work of two distinct hands; and since Louvre 4534 is not only stylistically inseparable but even physically linked with 1949,0812.9, this must tilt the balance in favour of the attribution of the latter to Federico. But even if Taddeo was prepared to accept his brother's help over the upper part of the composition, it does not necessarily follow that Federico was equally responsible for the design of the lower part.
According to Vasari, Federico finally returned to Rome, after an absence of about two years, on 16 January 1566, just when Taddeo seems to have set to work in earnest on the SS. Trinità commission. It is true that Vasari goes on to say that Federico was himself busy soon after his return with the 'Annunciation' in S. Maria Annunziata (see 1943,1113.24) as well as at the Villa d'Este at Tivoli (payments for the latter 25 May and 18 August 1566); but the two brothers were living in the same house, for Vasari says that Taddeo welcomed Federico's return because it would relieve him of the cares of housekeeping; he also makes it clear that Taddeo was accustomed to, and dependent on, Federico's assistance: "per aversi dunque Taddeo tant' opere alle mani, ogni dì sollecitava Federigo a tornarsene da Venezia" (Vasari, vii, pp. 98f.).
Literature: J. A. Gere, Burlington, cviii (1966), p. 289, note 7; Gere, Louvre Exh., 1969, under no. 56; Gere 109.
- Not on display
- 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.
Gere & Pouncey 1983
Unidentified (probably French) eighteenth-century collector, sometimes wrongly identified as P. Crozat (paraph L 2951, preceded by "60").
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number