- Museum number
Studies for an infant Christ
Silverpoint, on pale pink prepared paper
- Production date
- 1509 (circa)
Height: 167 millimetres
Width: 119 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Amended entry from NG Raphael catalogue:
For much of the fifteenth century, metalpoint had ranked second only to pen in frequency of usage by Italian artists, but by the beginning of the following century it had been almost entirely supplanted by chalk and Raphael was among the last of his contemporaries to employ it regularly. He had been trained in its use from an early age because it was a technique still favoured by Umbrian artists at the end of the fifteenth century: Perugino like Leonardo, his fellow student in Verrocchio's shop, being a particularly skilled practitioner. Raphael continued to make silverpoint drawings until well into his Roman career, the last surviving ones dating from around 1516.
This is from a group of twelve small-scale silverpoint studies predominantly on pink preparation from the early Roman period, c. 1509-11, that Fischel suggested came from a single sketchbook (the so-called 'Pink Sketchbook'). Whether or not the drawings were actually ever bound together is debatable since there are no traces of binding holes nor markedly more wear on the right side of the sheets indicative of page turning. However this question is of little consequence because Fischel was certainly right in bringing together such a stylistically homogenous group of studies. In addition, similar ink numbers probably dating from the sixteenth century found on this and several others in the series demonstrate that some of them remained together. The present example is one of the most free-flowing drawings from the group, in the confined space of the page the artist sketched eleven ideas (not counting the single leg drawn at the lower right) for a reclining Infant Christ. This kind of quick fire exploration of a single motif is reminiscent of his earlier sheet of pen studies of the Virgin and Child (BM: Ff,01.36), and indeed the two drawings also share in common the inspiration of Michelangelo's sculpted 'Taddei Tondo' (Royal Academy, London) for the pose of the Infant Christ twisting around to look over his shoulder. Michelangelo's sculpture had also been the starting point for the child in Raphael's 'Bridgewater Madonna' (Duke of Sutherland, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland), painted a year or so before he made the present drawing, and the pose of the figure drawn just below the centre echoes most closely the Infant Christ in that painting. Despite the similarities this drawing cannot be directly related to the painting, as has sometimes been suggested, because Raphael clearly had in mind a composition with the Christ Child reclining on a flat surface with his head supported by a pillow as is found in his so-called 'Madonna di Loreto', painted around 1511, in the Musée Condé at Chantilly. Raphael's parallel investigation of the Christ Child in a twisting pose and in a less active reclining pose with his arms aloft, like that employed in the Chantilly painting, is demonstrated by a drawing from the same 'Pink Sketchbook' group at Lille (Joannides 1983, no. 272) which includes studies of both motifs. The Lille drawing was probably made soon after the present one because it includes a more developed study of the pose found in the upper right of this sheet. Raphael's sustained fascination with the combined forward motion and backward turn of the head of Michelangelo's sculpted Christ Child is shown not only in drawings such as this one, but also his use of the pose for the putto in the lower right of his 'Triumph of Galatea' fresco c. 1511 in the Roman villa (now known as the Villa Farnesina) of the Sienese banker Agostino Chigi.
An albumen print by Roger Fenton after this was published in 1857; the previous year he had photographed Raphael's 'Entombment' drawing donated by Chambers Hall in 1855 (see 1855,0214.1).
Lit.: J.D. Passavant, 'Tour of a German Artist in England', London, 1836, (translation from the original German ed. published in Frankfurt, 1833), II, p. 100; G. Waagen, 'Treasure of Art in Great Britain', London, 1854, I, p. 226; P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and His Circle', London, 1962, I, no. 23, II, pl. 28; R.W. Scheller, 'The Case of the Stolen Raphael Drawings', " Master Drawings", 11, Summer 1973, no. 15, p. 127; J.A. Gere and N. Turner, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Drawings by Raphael from the Royal Library, the Ashmolean, the British Museum, Chatsworth and other English collections', 1983, no. 116; P Joannides, 'The Drawings of Raphael', Oxford, 1983, no. 271; E. Knab, E. Mitsch and K. Oberhuber, 'Raphael Die Zeichnungen', Stuttgart, 1983, no. 415; H. Chapman, in exhib. cat. (H. Chapman, T. Henry, C. Plazzotta et al.), London, National Gallery, 'Raphael from Urbino to Rome', 2004, no. 96
P. Joannides, 'The Drawings of Raphael', Oxford, 1983, No 271. BM Exhibition Catalogue: 'Raphael', London, 1983, No 116.
This drawing was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part II, Published by the Trustees, in 1891, where it was number VII and described there as 'Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael), Sketches for a Figure of the Infant Christ.'
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1962-1963 Nov-Sep, BM, 'Raphael and his Circle',
1983, BM, 'Drawings by Raphael', no.116
1994 May-July, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 'Raphael', no.22
2004-2005 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, 'Raphael: From Urbino to Rome'
2006 May-Aug, Rome, Galleria Borghese, 'Raffaello: Da Firenze a Roma'
2015 May-Jul, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'
2015 10 Sep-6 Dec, London, British Museum, 'Drawing in Silver and Gold'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- One of the drawings stolen from Wicar and sold to Ottley at the end of the 1790s, see Scheller 1973.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number