- Museum number
Death of St Francis Xavier; with Christ and other figures above, a ship visible beyond at r
Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over graphite
- Production date
Height: 506 millimetres
Width: 288 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 173
This is an early compositional study for Maratti's altarpiece in the Gesù, Rome (chapel in the right transept) commissioned by Padre (later Cardinal) Giovanni Francesco Negroni in 1674, but completed only in 1679 (Mezzetti, 1955, p. 333, under no. 96). The drawing and the painted altarpiece have few characteristics in common beyond their tall, somewhat narrow format, which would have been dictated from the start by Pietro da Cortona's altar design, conceived in the last year of his life. Yet despite such significant discrepancies, Schaar argued persuasively for a firm connection between the painting and the drawing, in accordance with the early inscription at the bottom of the sheet (Harris and Schaar, 1967, pp. 113ff.; Schaar, 1968, pp. 253-5). It is likely, as Schaar pointed out, that the drawing was executed at a very early stage in the design process, prior to Andrea Carlone's involvement in the chapel decoration from July 1674 (Titi, 1674, p. 191; and Titi, ed. Contardi, 1987, I, p. 100), taking responsibility for the vault which was to have been assigned to Gaulli. This can be deduced from the appearance of Christ in the sky, whose figure, subsequently incorporated in the programme of Carlone's frescoed vault showing the coronation of the saint by the Trinity, is not present in later compositional studies or in the altarpiece itself. In two intermediary compositional sketches, in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (inv.no. 1619; Alcaide, 1965, no. 26; Mena, 1975, II, p.627, no. 117) and in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan (Bora, 1976, no. 245), the figure of Christ has been substituted by an image of the saint himself, being carried heavenward by angels. In two further drawings, again in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (inv.no. 544; Alcaide, 1965, no. 27; Mena, 1975, II, p. 627, no. 118) and in the Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf (inv. no. FP 1483; Harris and Schaar, 1967, no. 285), this motif has, in its turn, been replaced by putti and angels scattering flowers, as in the finished painting. Presumably this change was effected after it was decided to sculpt, in a stucco relief sited between the broken pediments of the elaborate frame, an effigy of the saint in glory in the process of making his way heavenward, thereby avoiding the need to duplicate this motif in the altarpiece itself. Another compositional study exists in the Biblioteca National, Madrid (inv. no. 7960), apparently showing the saint lying on the right, as in the British Museum drawing.
Several detail studies, all apparently relating to stages in the design process subsequent to the drafting of the present drawing, are reproduced in Schaar's essay. These are at the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (inv.no. Kdz 16572; Schaar, 1968, pl. 217); the Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf (inv. nos FP 8254, FP 2173 recto and verso, FP 8303, FP 14052, FP 12416, FP 13948 and FP 8287; Schaar 1968, pls 216, 218 (recto) and 223 (verso), 219, 220, 222, 224 and 225); and in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle (inv. nos 4130 and 4376 verso; Blunt and Cooke, 1960, nos 276 and 313; Schaar, 1968, pls 221 and 227). A further related drawing at University College, London (inv.no. 1533; Hind, 1930, no.49) is mentioned by Schaar in his Düsseldorf catalogue, and another study for the head of the old man (second from the left) looking down at the saint, was formerly with Lorna Lowe (exh. cat., London, Lorna Lowe and Jean Luc Baroni at Esteban Cerda Ltd, 27 June-11 July 1979, no.41).
Literature: Harris and Schaar, 1967, p. 113; Schaar, 1968, pp. 251-3; Vitzthum, 1968, p. 362; Mena, 1975, I, pp. 236-7, and II, p. 626; Bora, 1976, under no. 245; Fischer Pace, [forthcoming].
- 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.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number