- Museum number
A Vision of the Trinity (God the Father with the Dead Christ and the Dove of the Holy Spirit on the right) appearing to St Bartholomew on the left with a child-angel holding his palm of martyrdom and St Nicholas of Bari on the right accompanied by two angels one holding his crozier
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk, squared in black chalk (the grid numbered at the bottom, the left side and over the arched top)
- Production date
Height: 286 millimetres
Width: 186 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Watermark: A dove on a mount.
A study for Canini's earliest known commission: one of the two altarpiece he painted in 1644 for the Roman church of S. Martino ai Monti. The inclusion of St Nicholas of Bari in Canini's altarpiece could be linked to the history of S. Martino ai Monti as it is known for having hosted the meeting in 324 of the Roman delegation that went to the Council of Nicaea (modern day Iznik in Turkey) in 325, the first ecumenical gathering of Christian bishops. A prominent participant at the council was St Nicholas, a Greek born in modern-day Turkey, the Bishop of Myra whose remains were taken to Bari in the 11th century hence his Italian nomenclature. Nicholas's staunch defence of the church against Arian heresy in Nicaea had a contemporary resonance as the doctrinal divisions between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism were still being bitterly contested at the time of the painting's commission on battlefields in Central Europe during the Thirty Years War. As one the key doctrinal divisions between Catholics and Protestants was transubstantiation (the belief that substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is changed into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Christ) it is probably not coincidental that Canini represented the Christ as a corpse in his Trinity: thereby emphasising how Christ's sacrificial body was daily celebrated and revivified at masses held at the altar beneath the painting. As Ralph Holland noted, Canini's representation of the dead Christ is modelled on Annibale Carracci's 'Pietà' painting now in Naples.
The finished composition differs only in minor detail from the present squared drawing, such as the improvement to the drapery folds of the vestments of St Nicholas and the addition of three balls at his feet to identify him more readily. The drawing is the earliest known example by Canini and as Nicholas Turner observes it recalls pen and wash studies by Annibale Carracci and Domenichino. Canini's compositional study for the other altarpiece in the church was identified by Walter Vitzthum in Worms ('Master Drawings', 3, Autumn 1965, p. 258).
Lit.: R. Holland, in exhib. cat., Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, 'Italian and other drawings 1500-1800', 1974, no. 73; N. Turner, 'Drawings by Giovanni Angelo Canini', "Master Drawings", Winter 1978, p. 388, pl. 1
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1972, Edinburgh, Merchants' Hall, 'Italian 17thc drawings from British private collections', no. 13
1974, Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, 'Italian and other drawings 1500-1800', no. 48
1975, Courtauld Institute, 'Italian and other drawings 1500-1800', no. 48
1982, Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, 'Italian Drawings 1525-1750 from the Collection of Ralph Holland', no. 59
2014, 7 May-11 June, G90 display (no cat),'Recent Italian drawing acquisitions'
- 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