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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Four standing women; one in foreground with a bowl balanced on her head, another bowl in her hand Black and white chalk, on blue paper, lightly squared for transfer in black chalk

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1500-1547
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 328 millimetres
    • Width: 159 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    A study for the group of women standing to the left in the fresco of the 'Visitation', formerly in the church of Santa Maria della Pace, Rome, which the artist painted late in his career, after 1530. The fresco was detached and only three fragments survive, now in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle (Hirst pls 194-6, 203). The composition is recorded in an engraving by Cock and in a painted copy in the Galleria Borghese, Rome (Hirst pls 201-2).

    Lit.: P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Raphael and His Circle', London, 1962, I, no. 280, II, pl. 262; M. Hirst, 'Sebastiano del Piombo', Oxford, 1981, p. 146, pl. 199; M. Koshikawa and H. Kurita, in exhib. cat., Tokyo and Nagoya, 'Italian 16th and 17th Century Drawings', 1996, no 11

    Pouncey & Gere 1962
    A study for the group of onlookers on the l. of Sebastiano's late fresco of the 'Visitation' (dated after 1530 by Dussler and Pallucchini) formerly in S. Maria della Pace, Rome, of which only three fragments (one including the upper part of this group) survive, in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle (Dussler, figs. 70, 72, 73).
    Two variants of the whole composition exist: a painting in the Borghese (P. della Pergola, 'Galleria Borghese', ii (1959), no. 186; Pallucchini, pl. 83) and an anonymous sixteenth-century engraving (Dussler, fig. 71). These differ considerably in detail, but what is left of the fresco suggests that the Borghese picture is an accurate copy. In the latter the figures are larger in relation to the total area than in the engraving and the groups are closer together. The r. foreground shows a naked child clutching a dog, while in the engraving there is an old woman kneeling with outstretched arms and a boy standing behind her. The engraving must, however, record in all essentials a preliminary composition-study by Sebastiano and not an arbitrary variation by a later artist, for not only is the r. foreground group typical of him in the poses of the figures and such details as the woman's head-dress, but 1935,0713.2 agrees with the engraving and differs from the fresco in the position of the head of the r.-hand woman in the group.
    If, as seems probable, 1935,0713.2 can be identified with lot 982 in Ottley's sale, he recognized Sebastiano's authorship but, not unreasonably, described the drawing as "a group of four figures for the [National Gallery] 'Raising of Lazarus'". It was attributed to Sebastiano by Mayor and Popham, who both noticed the connexion with the Pace 'Visitation', but was rejected by Berenson, Dussler* and Pallucchini and is not discussed by Fischel ('A New Approach to Sebastiano del Piombo as a Draughtsman', 'OMD', xiv (1939/40), pp. 21 ff). As so often with Sebastiano's drawings, the first impression is one of unrhythmic dryness; but the suggestion of atmosphere, the sensitively drawn contemplative faces and the subtle use of reflected lights and tonal transitions leave no doubt that 1935,0713.2 is from his own hand. In quality it is fully equal to the study for the Virgin and S. Elizabeth in the same composition (Louvre 5051; BB 2497), which is accepted by Berenson, Dussler, Pallucchini and Fischel.

    Literature: BB 2506 c; A Brief. . . Description of a Collection of. . . Drawings . . .formed by . . . Mr Mayor, 1871 and 1874, no. 141; 1875. no. 232; A. E. Popham, BMQ, x (1935), p. 48; L. Dussler, Sebastiano del Piombo, Basle, 1942, p. 192, no. 219; R. Pallucchini, Sebastian Viniziano, Milan, 1944, p. 192.

    * Popham no longer feels the doubt with which Dussler temporarily infected him.


  • Bibliography

    • Pouncey & Gere 1962 280 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1964, BM, 'Michelangelo', no. 118 1977 May-Jun, Hermitage, 'Italian Renaissance', no. 57 1977 Jul-Aug, Moscow, Pushkin Museum, 'Italian Renaissance', no. 57 1980, Adelaide and Melbourne, no. 60 1996 Feb-Apr, Tokyo, Nat Mus Western Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no.11 1996 Apr-May, Nagoya, Aichi Pref Mus of Art, Italian Drawings/BM, no.11
    2008 Feb-May, Rome, Palazzo di Venezia, 'Sebastiano del Piombo'
    2017 15 Mar-25 Jun, London, The National Gallery, Sebastiano-Michelangelo

  • 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. Pouncey & Gere 1962 1935,0713.2 is not from the Davenport Bromley Collection as stated in the 'BMQ' through a misreading of Mayor's reference to the Alnwick fresco-fragments which were previously in that collection.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Four standing women; one in foreground with a bowl balanced on her head, another bowl in her hand Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper, squared for transfer


Four standing women; one in foreground with a bowl balanced on her head, another bowl in her hand Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper, squared for transfer

Image description



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