Collection online

drawing / cartoon

  • -101/1
  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Christ distributing bread to his disciples after his resurrection. c.1587-90 Pen and brown ink, brown wash, white heightening over black chalk, pricked for transfer

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1587-1589
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 170 millimetres
    • Width: 270 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Modified text from McDonald 2013.

    The drawing depicts Christ's third appearance to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius after his resurrection (John 21:13-14). It is one of a large number of sheets showing scenes from the Gospels and the Old Testament made in preparation for the decoration of liturgical vestments at the monastery of El Escorial. Some of the vestments survive whereas others are recorded in paintings. Alonso Sanchez Coello’s St Stephen and St Lawrence from around 1580, for example, shows the extraordinary richness of the embroidered vestments with scenes on their frontals similar to those found in the Escorial drawings. In an attempt to work out the different hands, Angulo and Pérez Sánchez separate the drawings into groups led by four Masters but give no reason why some of the drawings are not by Barroso/Lopez de Escuriaz (Angulo Íñiguez and Pérez Sánchez 1975, I, nos 309–85). This drawing is not included in the Corpus.

    Most of the surviving drawings are kept bound in three albums in the library of El Escorial (Escorial Albums: (I) 28-I-25; (II) 28-II-6; (III) 28-I-2). Two albums contain highly finished sheets in the same carefully worked technique of this drawing and the majority have been painstakingly pricked. The remarkable regularity of the pricking is clearly visible in this drawing. The third volume contains 'substitute cartoons' that were made to transfer the design to be worked in embroidery. In these designs the framing elements are pricked and rubbed with pouncing dust so as to preserve the original drawing. The finished drawings and the substitute cartoons present a unique corpus of work that allow insight to workshop practices at the Escorial. For a concordance of the drawings with the cartoons in the Escorial albums, see C. Bambach, 'Drawing and painting in the Italian Renaissance Workshop,' Cambridge 1999, pp.368–71.

    Christ Distributing Bread is one a relatively few sheets from the group found outside Spain. The drawings were made in a workshop and were meant to be preserved for future use and hence the majority survive in the albums described above. Their value is further suggested by the strips of paper that have been applied to the verso of this drawing to strengthen areas weakened through pricking. There are broad differences in technique and quality in the drawings; some like Christ Distributing Bread are heavily worked with carefully applied highlights, others were more rapidly executed. In an attempt to sort out the different hands, Angulo and Pérez Sánchez separated the drawings into groups led by four Masters. It is very difficult to qualify the criteria for the groups and it is perhaps more prudent to treat the drawings as a collective effort involving a number of artists working together.

    The drawings share many distinctive characteristics of late sixteenth-century prints: their size, format and subject, and in particular the arrangement of the main figures in the foreground for legibility. For the majority, including Christ Distributing Bread, a direct print source has not been identified but the engravings of Netherlandish printmakers, amongst them Marteen de Vos, Jan Sadeler I, the Weirix family, or Philips Galle, provide compelling comparisons. The collection of prints at the Escorial included considerable numbers of prints by these artists and must have provided a resource for those working there. In several cases, a print source for an Escorial drawing can be identified. A drawing in the first album (28-I-25), Romulus Tilling the Foundation of Rome, for example, is copied from a print dated 1554 by Michele Lucchese after Polidoro da Caravaggio (see W,3.15).

    M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain',, British Museum, London 2012, fig.25, p.74; M. P. McDonald, 'El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya',, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, (as Escorial workshop).


  • Bibliography

    • McDonald 2013 2 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Spanish Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
    2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
    2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
    2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • 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.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Christ distributing bread to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21:13-14). c.1587-90 Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, pricked for transfer

Christ distributing bread to his disciples at the sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (John 21:13-14). c.1587-90 Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, pricked for transfer

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PDO342159

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help