- Museum number
Design for a Lunette, with Scenes of the 'Calling of the Apostles' and 'St Peter Saved from the Waters' (the 'Navicella'): the lunette on the entrance wall within the church of the Certosa di San Martino in Naples. 1637-1638/9
Pen and brown ink and grey-brown wash over some lines in black chalk. Subsequent to the execution of the drawing the sheet has either been incised or cut vertically in the centre.
- Production date
Height: 191 millimetres
Width: 267 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Lanfranco spent the years 1637-38/9 producing an expansive pictorial cycle within the church of the Certosa (Charterhouse) di San Martino in Naples. This drawing is the projected design or modello for the part of the cycle contained on the semi-lunettes either side of the window on the entrance wall within the church. Lanfranco`s line in pen and ink is characteristically tremulous and abbreviated, substance only given by the application of wash. This gives the modello in some respects the appearance of a working study, further suggested by the line in the top r. where Lanfranco has tested his pen. The shape of the lunette and parts of the composition appear to have been first drawn in black chalk, visible, especially, in the outer curve of the left lunette, the base line and in the central division.
The sheet is signed by both the artist and the Padre Procuratore, demonstrating the contractual nature of the drawing and the tight artistic control the Carthusians maintained over the artists they employed, the leaders in the Neapolitan sphere including, contemporaneous to Lanfranco, Jusepe de Ribera, and Massimo Stanzione. Schleier (2001) suggests that the first inscription may be that of the notary G.A. Auriemi who drew up the contract.
In the relatively cramped spaces either side of the entrance wall window Lanfranco was required to represent two scenes of a subject appropriate to the semi-public nature of the Carthusian`s church. The l.-hand scene in which Christ calls the first apostles from the shores of the sea of Galilee (note the fishnet sketched in five swift lines) is in contrast to the storm of the r.-hand, in which Christ rescues St Peter from the water. Turner (1999) notes, there are some significant changes in the frescoes as executed, notably the reversal of the perspective of the l. hand scene. This gives Christ equal prominence in both scenes and a symmetry Lanfranco had avoided initially. Lanfranco had depicted the Navicella earlier in the frescoed altarpiece for St Peter`s in Rome in the late 1620s.
Two other modelli for Lanfranco`s pictorial schemes within the church of the Certosa are conserved at Haarlem (see Schleier, 2001, nos. D40-1, pp. 386-7), one of which similarly bares the signatures of the artist and Padre Procuratore. Consonant with their status as modelli these two sheets are also executed in pen and ink and wash. They represent the Risen Christ supported by angels within the webs of the fourteenth-century vaults of the nave. Lanfranco used the unavoidable framework of the ribs to create an illusion of space both within and beyond the space of the nave, designed to be seen immediately the observer enters the church. In the lunette the fictive space is understood as purely existing beyond the pictorial surface. On the corresponding lunette on the east wall of the choir Lanfranco frescoed the Crucifixion.
Lit.: E. Schleier, exh. cat., Florence and Rome, `Disegni di Giovanni Lanfranco, 1983, pp. 175 and 177, under nos. 36 and 36d, pp. 175, 177, and 181; B. W. Meijer and E. Schleier, exh. cat., Florence and Rome, `Disegni italiani del Teylers Museum..., 1983, p. 190, under no. 84; N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no.152; E. Schleier (ed.)., exh. cat., Parma, Naples, Rome, `Giovanni Lanfranco. Un pittore barocco tra Parma, Roma e Napoli`, Milan, 2001, no. D39, pp. 385-6
This is a modello for the two frescoes in the lunette of the inside wall of the façade of the church of the Certosa di S. Martino in Naples, which represent the 'Calling of the Apostles' and 'St Peter Saved from the Waters' (the 'Navicella') (the latter reproduced in Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), fig. 165). The window in the centre corresponds with that in the upper wall of the façade. The decoration of the nave, choir and entrance wall of the fourteenth-century church of the Certosa, which occupied the painter from 1637 until 1638/9, was the second large-scale commission that Lanfranco undertook following his transfer to Naples in 1634 (see Schleier in Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), pp. 174-8, no.xxxvi). What appears to be Lanfranco's sketch for the British Museum drawing, executed in the same technique of pen and brown ink with grey-brown wash and corresponding exactly in scale, was formerly on the London art market (sale, Christie's, 2 July 1996, lot 126, as attributed to Lanfranco). It is much looser in treatment and some of the background details have been left blank.
The two painted compositions are different in many respects from their drawn counterparts here. In the fresco of the 'Calling of the Apostles', Christ stands on the shore in the left foreground gesturing towards the apostles in the boat in the middle distance. The 'St Peter Saved from the Waters' is, on the other hand, much closer in composition to the sketch, being a subject Lanfranco had already treated in his famous altar fresco (of which only a fragment now survives) painted for St Peter's, Rome (Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), pp. 127-31, no. xxiv).
In the contract between the painter and de Alegria of 3 April 1637, the former agreed to paint the frescoes according to the scheme "... descritto nelli tre disegni firmati questo predetto dì da propria mano delli preditti p[adre] D. Isidoro et Giovanne" (Faraglia, 1885, pp. 456-7, Doc. i; also quoted in Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), p. 177). There is good reason to suppose that the present drawing is one of the three that accompanied the contract; another drawing, for part of the ceiling, similarly signed by both men, is in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem (inv. no. k 57: Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), p. 177; Florence and Rome, 1983-4(b), p. 190, no. 84). A second drawing in the Teylers Museum, also for the ceiling (inv. no. k 56; Bean and Vitzthum, 1961, p. 112, fig. 12), is said by Bert Meijer and Carel van Tuyll to be the third drawing mentioned in the contract (Florence and Rome, 1983-4(b)), though it bears only the name of Lanfranco and this seems not to be a signature. It is therefore possible that the two Haarlem drawings, together with other, pendant studies for the ceiling, now lost, were once joined together to make one, and that a third modello drawing, now also lost, was presented on that occasion.
Other surviving drawings for the 'Calling of the Apostles' and the 'St Peter Saved from the Waters' are considered by Schleier in Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), pp.174ff.
Literature: Paris, 1967, p. 27, under no. 52; Florence and Rome, 1983-4(a), pp. 175 and 177, under no.xxxvi, and p. 181, under no.xxxvid; Florence and Rome, 1983-4(b), p. 190, under no. 84; Tokyo and Nagoya, 1996, no. 69.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1972, BM. 'Modern/Recent Acquisitions'
1996 Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Nat Mus Western Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no.69
1996 Apr-May, Nagoya, Aichi Pref Mus of Art, Italian Drawings /BM, no.69
2001 Sept-Dec, Parma, Reggia di Colorno, 'Giovanni Lanfranco', no. D39
- 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