- Museum number
Unidentified subject with women, children and two elderly men (study for the 'Benediction of the Seed of Noah')
- Production date
Height: 268 millimetres
Width: 410 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Bought as a 'attributed to Bronzino', the drawing has recently been ascribed to his master Pontormo by Janet Cox-Rearick. She suggests that it is a study for the lost fresco of the 'Deluge with the benediction of the Seed of Noah' on the left-hand wall in the choir of the church of San Lorenzo, Florence. The work was commissioned by Duke Cosimo de' Medici in 1546, and Pontormo worked on it in the last decade of his life. The upper tier was completed in about 1550, but the lower tier, for which the present drawing is connected, was left unfinished on Pontormo's death in January 1557. Bronzino completed all the unfinished frescoes in the lower tier. The attribution depends on the similarities between certain Pontormo drawings and the present work. However, Chris Fischer - in discussion in a different context - has suggested that the drawing is more likely to be by Bronzino than Pontormo, due to the rather lapidary handling of the figures and technique.
Lit: J.A. Gere, 'Drawings by Sebastiano del Piombo and Agnolo Bronzino', The British Museum Yearbook I: The Classical Tradition, London, 1976, p. 272 (as Bronzino); N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Florentine drawings of the sixteenth century', 1986, no. 121 (as Attributed to Bronzino); J. Cox-Rearick, 'Pontormo, Bronzino, Allori and the lost 'Deluge' at S. Lorenzo', 'The Burlington Magazine', CXXXIV, 1992, pp. 239-48, fig. 15 (as Pontormo)
Turner, Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century, London, 1986
The subject is unclear. It has been suggested that, since no men of fighting age are represented, it might be an episode from Exodus. Another proposal is that the drawing may in some way be connected with the series of frescoes of scenes from the Old Testament, which Bronzino completed after Pontormo's death in the choir of S. Lorenzo in Florence and which were all destroyed in the eighteenth century. This would account for the Pontormesque flavour of the drawing. Furthermore, its style is compatible with a dating in the 1550s.
The group, made up of figures seemingly interlocked with each other, gives the impression of having been conceived for execution in marble relief rather than any other medium.
The anatomical exaggerations are particularly reminiscent of Pontormo, for example in the elongated body of the woman kneeling on the left with her back slightly turned towards the spectator.
Literature: J.A. Gere, British Museum Yearbook I: The Classical Tradition, London, 1976, pp. 273ff.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, Recent Acquisitions, (no cat.)
1986 BM, Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century, no.121
2015 Oct-Nov, BM, 'Wayfinding': Central Saint Martins 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