- Museum number
Leo Emperor of the Armenians killed in the presence of his mother; preparatory study for a fresco in the ceiling of the Cappella Paolina in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome
Oil on paper (grisaille), with strip of paper added along top right at later date(?)
- Production date
Height: 272 millimetres
Width: 293 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- A study for the fresco on the underside of the entrance arch of the Cappella Paolina in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome (for an illustration of the the painting see Smith O'Neil pl. 66). The chapel was decorated by the cream of Roman painters selected by the patron Pope Paul V. Payments for Baglione's work are recorded between September 1610 and August 1612. The unusual medium and level of finish suggest that it was made for presentation to Paul V. An earlier study for the figures of Leo and his murderers is in the Art Museum, Princeton University (1948-620; Smith O'Neil pl. 65). The Emperor Leo was mudered because of his persecution of worshippers of holy images. His end was foretold to his mother in a dream.
Lit.: N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'The study of Italian drawings, the contribution of Philip Pouncey', 1994, no. 150; N. Turner, 'Italian drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, no. 339; M. Smith O'Neil, 'Giovanni Baglione, artistic reputation in Baroque Rome', Cambridge, 2002, Appendix 2: Drawings, no. 67
This drawing was formerly attributed to the seventeenth-century Bolognese painter Giacomo Cavedone (1577-1660). Baglione's authorship was recognised by Julien Stock. It is a preparatory sketch, with significant differences, for a fresco on the ceiling of the Cappella Paolina in S. Maria Maggiore, Rome, one of the most lavishly decorated chapels erected in the city in the first quarter of the seventeenth century (reproduced in Mâle, 1951, p.25, fig.6, and O'Neil, 1992, II, fig.99). The chapel contains the tombs of Paul V Borghese, who commissioned it, and Clement VIII Aldobrandini, by whom he had been created Cardinal. The frescoes celebrate the virtues of the Virgin, illustrate the devotion to holy images reaffirmed by the Counter-Reformation theologians, and commemorate opponents of heresy; their iconography is discussed in detail by Mâle. Baglione's fresco illustrates God's vengeance on iconoclasts. The gruesome death of the emperor Leo, which was foretold to his mother by the Virgin in a dream, was the result of his persecution of worshippers of holy images.
Drawings for the same composition are in the University Art Museum, Princeton (inv.no. 48-620; Gibbons, 1977, no. 19) and in the collection of Joseph F.McCrindle (Princeton, 1991, no. 30).
Literature: London, 1994, no.150.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994, BM, 'The Study of Italian Drawings', No. 150
1995-6 Nov-Apr, BM, Recent Acquisitions (no cat.)
2003-4 Dec-April, BM, NACF exhibition
- 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