- Museum number
Mercury presents the Infant Bacchus to the nymphs, formerly in an album; in a landscape with a burning building behind at l
Pen and brown ink, with brown wash
- Production date
Height: 234 millimetres
Width: 279 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- See also Curator's comment in 1988,1105.91(1).
Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 175
The drawing is connected, with appreciable differences, to a print of the subject after Maratti by Andrea Procaccini (q.v.), dedicated to Marchese Niccolò Maria Pallavicini, an impression of which is in the Department of Prints and Drawings (inv.no. 1874,0808.1677). The narrow margin at the bottom of the drawing, which provides for the inscription in the print, bears out the connection.
An earlier, closely related compositional sketch, with the figures drawn to almost the same scale, is in the Frits Lugt Collection, the Fondation Custodia, in the Institut Néerlandais, Paris (inv.no. 1971-T.23; Byam Shaw, 1983, no. 167). In the Paris drawing, the artist has not yet arrived at a satisfactory arrangement for the three nymphs, who are about to take the infant Bacchus. The much redrawn pointing figure at the left of the Paris sheet, whose form is interrupted by the nymphs to the right, reappears in the British Museum drawing, reduced and placed farther in the background, thereby avoiding the awkward juxtaposition. A faithful copy of the Paris drawing by a member of Maratti's school is in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (inv. no. Kdz 16331; Berlin, 1969, pp. 57-8, no. 114).
No painted version of the composition apparently survives, but what appears to be a full-size cartoon for the head of Mercury, indented for transfer, is at Christ Church, Oxford (Byam Shaw, 1976, no. 643). This corresponds closely, in reverse, to the head of Mercury in the British Museum and Paris drawings, though it differs from that in Procaccini's print, where the head is seen in profile to the left. The Oxford cartoon seems to provide evidence that the composition was to have been painted, and to a far larger scale than the composition of the print.
There also appears to be some connection in composition with the fresco by Calandrucci in Palazzo Lante, Rome (Graf, 1986, I, pp. 34-6, nos 1-10). A painting of the same subject by Giuseppe Chiari (1654-1727) is in the Spada Gallery in Rome (Zeri, 1954, no. 313). The composition is a concoction of different figurative elements taken from Maratti's inventions, though some knowledge of the present design is apparent, such as the figure of the kneeling nymph receiving the infant Bacchus.
The variegated use of the wash and the firm contours made by the pen, is close to the 'Death of St Francis Xavier' (1950,0211.11), and so this drawing probably dates from the late 1670s.
Literature: Berlin, 1969, p. 58, under no. 114; Old Master Drawings presented by Y. Tan Bunzl, Faerber and Maison Ltd, London, 1971, under no. 31; Paris, 1974, p. 19, under no. 45; Mena, 1975, II, p.953, under no. 774 (as attributed to Pietro de' Pietri); Byam Shaw, 1976, I, p. 174, under no. 643; Rudolph, 1978, pp.197 and 203, n.46; Byam Shaw, 1983, I, under no. 167.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- From an album of chiefly 17th-century Italian drawings, with a 19th-century binding inscribed: "CHALKS"; on the back fly-leaf: "Broke Hall". The entire album was purchased using £240 donated to the BM by Sotheby's. Some drawings were mounted at the time of acquisition by the Museum (1963,1109.29-31, 1963,1109.26-27, 1963,1109.24-25); the remainder was registered in 1988 (see 1988,1105.91 and sub-numbers).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number