- Museum number
Three women running towards the viewer
Brush drawing in brown and red wash, with pen and brown ink, heightened with white (partly oxidised), over red chalk; with lines indented
- Production date
Height: 199 millimetres
Width: 172 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Since Richardson the Younger, this sheet has been connected with the 'The Rape of the Sabines' in the Musei Civici, Bologna. The attribution of this painting has varied considerably, from Parmigianino to Bertoja and Mirola, or perhaps even a collaboration of the two. In recent decades the authorship of the present drawing has similarly fluctuated between Bertoja and Mirola, with scholars uniformly reluctant to commit to a firm attribution: De Grazia did not make a case either way, whilst Popham's measured preference for Bertoja has since been balanced by David Ekserdjian's equally cautious case for Mirola.
Lit.: D. De Grazia, 'Bertoia, Mirola and the Farnese Court', 1991, p.168 [p.1], p.180 [D/attr 3]; D. Ekserdjian, in 'La Maniera Emiliana: Bertoja, Mirola, da Parma alle corti d'Europa', exh. cat., Labirinto della Masone, Fontanellato, 2019, pp. 102-4, no. 12.
The drawing is referred to by the younger Richardson apropos of a picture which he saw in the Palazzo Bonfiglioli in Bologna: "On the Fore-ground is the Mediation of the 'Sabin' Women, the Men being engag'd in Battel with the 'Romans'. At a distance, and (which had happen'd a good while before, see 'Livy') is the Rape of the 'Sabins'. There is the Profile of an Old Man, of which my Father has the Drawing ; and the three Women running away, of which he has also the Drawing; and which is without comparison finer than in the Picture, which is not agreeable. 'Tis as big, or bigger than a Half-length."
This picture is now in the Museo Civico in Bologna (Quintavalle, 'Bertoja', fig. 2 ; also repr. 'Master Drawings', ii (1964), p. 170). Richardson's association of his father's drawing of three running women with figures in the background is convincing, though the women in the drawing do not correspond exactly with any of those in the picture. In Richardson's time the picture was believed to be by Parmigianino, to whom the present drawing was attributed in the Wellesley Sale of 1866 and in the Nebehay catalogue; but, as Signora Quintavalle pointed out, the picture appears under the name of Mirola in the Farnese inventories of 1587 and 1680 (cf. G. Cam-pori, 'Raccolta di Cataloghi. . . ', Modena, 1870, pp. 58 and 210). Signora Quintavalle (following Philip Pouncey's original suggestion, made when the drawing was acquired) catalogued it as Bertoja. She had not observed its connection with the Bologna picture, and suggested that it might be a study for the lost central part of the ceiling of the Sala di Orfeo in the Palazzo del Giardino in Parma. Mirola would appear to have an equally strong, if not a stronger claim to be considered as the author; but since I can see no difference in style between this drawing and others which there is every reason to think are by Bertoja, I prefer to leave it under the name of the latter.
Literature: Richardson, Italy, p. 33; Die Zeichnung: iv, Zeichner der italienischen Kunst, Kunsthandlung Gustav Nebehay, Berlin, 1928, no. 139; Quintavalle, Bertoja, p. 53; A. E. Popham, Master Drawings, ii (1964), p. 169.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019 Mar-May, Italy, Fontanellato, Labirinto della Masone, Bertoja-Mirola
- 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