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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Studies for a Virgin and Child in her arms Pen and brown ink, over traces of red chalk

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1506-1507 (circa)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 253 millimetres
    • Width: 183 millimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Watermark: flower

    These eight energetic sketches of the Virgin and Child on a single sheet have come to epitomize Raphael's studies of Florentine art and the small devotional paintings of the Virgin and Child he made during the years of 1505-8 when he was active in Florence. In Raphael's unique way, he drew upon Leonardo and Michelangelo for the concept and execution of the drawing, while creating an original work of art. At first glance, the influence of Leonardo appears to be the strongest. The multiple sketches of the Virgin and Child, rapidly laid down on the paper with frenzied strokes of the pen, are dependent on Leonardo's sketch-filled pages. The example which is often illustrated to show Leonardo's influence is the sheet of studies of 'The Virgin and Child with a cat' in the British Museum (1857-1-10-1), a drawing in which the viewer, even five hundred years later, can feel the artist's mind at work as his pen swept across the page while it recorded and studied a child wrestling with a cat. The same energy infuses the Raphael drawing. One senses the rapid movement of the pen in passages such as the feet of the Child in the main sketch where it bites into the paper in a furious manner and in other passages such as in the various heads of the Virgin at the top where its line curves around the form in a highly simplified, but expressive manner. The jumble of numerous ideas on the same page was not a new concept created by Leonardo, but certainly one that he perfected. Andrea del Verrocchio and his pupils, who included both Leonardo and Raphael's teacher Perugino, often made sheets with numerous sketches on the same page (see, for example the studies of four putti in a drawing in Paris, Louvre, inv. 2 RF, illustrated in F. Ames-Lewis, 'Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy', New Haven and London, 1981, p. 108). Raphael must have seen drawings by Leonardo while he was in Florence and adapted his method of working for these sketches. The drawing is also dependent on Michelangelo. The infant in the largest study in the centre of the page is developed from the Christ Child in Michelangelo's 'Taddei Tondo' now in the Royal Academy, London (illustrated in L. Goldscheider, 'Michelangelo: Paintings, Sculptures, Architecture', London, 1953, pl. 35). Raphael's first exploration of Michelangelo's relief appears on the verso of a drawing in Paris where there is a pen and ink sketch closely based on the Virgin and Child of the tondo (Paris, Louvre, inv. 3856; Joannides, no. 93). The tondo is generally dated to c. 1504, just before Raphael arrived in Florence. Raphael could have seen the sculpture in the house of his friend and patron, Taddeo Taddei. In the present drawing of the infant, Raphael reversed the lunging position of the Child, but the basic pose remains recognizable. As in Raphael's copies of Michelangelo's 'Saint Matthew' (see 1855-2-14-1 verso) or the 'David' (Pp 1-68), he has closely studied the original, but created a new image in his own idiom. Raphael's drawing is essentially a brain-storming session to work out compositions of the Virgin and Child. During his stay in Florence, Raphael enjoyed great success with these small, devotional images. Despite repeated attempts by scholars to date the paintings, a drawing such as the present one indicates that Raphael was working on many compositions at once, even if the pictures were produced over a number of years. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact date for either the drawings or the paintings. The largest drawing at the centre of the sheet is clearly an idea for the 'Bridgewater Madonna' (Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, on loan from the Duke of Sutherland; see Dussler, p. 23, pl. 60; Meyer zur Capellen, 2001, no. 33, p. 91). The drawing to the right relates to the 'Colonna Madonna' where the Child grabs his mother's dress (Berlin, Gemaldegalerie, inv. 248; see Dussler, p. 25, pl. 62; Meyer zur Capellen, 2001, no. 36, p. 265). The drawing at the top centre has been related to both the 'Tempi Madonna' (Munich, Alte Pinakothek; see Dussler, pp. 21-22, pl. 57; Meyer zur Capellen, no. 37, p. 92) and the 'Large Cowper Madonna' (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art; see Dussler, p. 26, pl. 70; Meyer zur Capellen, 2001, no. 39, p. 94). And finally, the Child on the top left is close to that of the 'Small Cowper Madonna' in reverse (Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art; see Dussler, pp. 19-20, pl. 50; Meyer zur Capellen, 2001, no. 23, p. 86). While the drawing does relate in some way to all of these pictures, it is more likely a general study on the theme of the Madonna and Child than a preparatory study for any single painting. If the present drawing represents Raphael's various thoughts for compositions of the Virgin and Child, a drawing in Vienna represents the next stage, an elaboration on one of the ideas (Vienna, Albertina, inv. 209; see V. Birke and J. Kertész, no. 209; not in Joannides). The recto of the Albertina sheet develops the large study for the 'Bridgewater Madonna' in silverpoint then in pen and ink. Although still essentially a sketch, the drawing pays more attention to the Virgin's face and the position of the Child. Further studies must have followed, for the Child in the painting reclines across the Virgin's lap rather than straddles her knee as in both the London and the Vienna sketches. The verso of the Vienna drawing is another page of sketches exploring various poses for the Virgin and Child in the manner of the British Museum drawing.

    Infrared reflectography has revealed the presence of a red chalk study of the Virgin and Child on the verso of the drawing that has been covered by a backing sheet. The medium of the drawing has been confirmed by Satoko Tanimoto and Giovanni Verri from the Department of Scientific Research in a campaign of investigation of the Italian 15th century drawings linked to the forthcoming 2010 exhibition. The analytical methods employed have been non-destructive and non-contact ones: infrared and ultraviolet imaging, with XRF and Raman spectrometry. Lit.: P. Pouncey and J.A. Gere, ‘Italian Drawings in the BM: Raphael and his Circle', London, 1962, no. 19 (with previous literature); J. Pope-Hennessy, 'Raphael', New York, 1970, pp. 175ff, fig. 163; L. Dussler, ‘Raphael: a Critical Catalogue', London, 1971, p. 23; J-P. Cuzin, 'Raphaël: vie et l'oeuvre', Fribourg, 1983, no. 96, p. 91; J.A. Gere and N. Turner in exh. cat. BM, 'Drawings by Raphael', London, 1983, no. 84; P. Joannides, 'The Drawings of Raphael', Oxford, 1983, no. 180; R. Jones and N. Penny, 'Raphael', New Haven and London, 1983, pp. 25, 29, fig. 33; E. Knab, E. Mitsch and K. Oberhuber, 'Raphael Die Zeichnungen', Stuttgart, 1983, no. 161; F. Ames-Lewis, 'The Draftsman Raphael', New Haven and London, 1986, pp. 62-63, fig. 75; N. Turner in exh. cat. BM, 'Florentine Drawings of the Sixteenth Century', London, 1986; no. 26; J.A. Gere in exh. cat., Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Drawings by Raphael and his Circle', New York, 1987, no. 12; V. Birke and J. Kertész, 'Die italienischen Zeichnungen der Albertina, Generalverzeichnis Band I, Inv. 1-1200', Vienna, 1992, under no. 209, pp. 121-2; D. Cordellier and B. Py, 'Inventaire général des dessins italiens, V: Raphaël, son atelier, ses copistes', Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris, 1992, p. 85; A. Weston-Lewis in exh. cat., Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 'Raphael: The Pursuit of Perfection', Edinburgh, 1994, no. 20, pp. 62-3; J. Meyer zur Capellen, 'Raphael in Florence', London, 1996, p. 171-2, fig. 106; K. Oberhuber, 'Raphael. The Paintings', Munich and London, 1999. Pp. 58-9; J. Meyer zur Capellen, 'Raphael. The Paintings. Vol. I, The Beginning in Umbria and Florence, ca. 1500-1508', Landshut, 2001, no. 33/I.2, pp. 250-253 and no. 36/I.1, p. 264; H. Chapman, in exh. cat. (by H. Chapman, T. Henry. C. Plazzotta et al), London, National Gallery, 'Raphael: from Urbino to Rome', 2004, no. 63; C. Van Cleave, 'Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance', London, 2007, p. 142, illustrated p. 145; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 98, pp.306-7 (cat. entry H. Chapman).

    This drawing was issued as a coloured facsimile by the British Museum in 'Reproductions of Drawings by Old Masters in the British Museum', Part I, Published by the Trustees, in 1888 where it was number XIX and described there as 'Raffaello Santi, Various Studies for a Group of the Virgin and Child.'


  • Bibliography

    • Pouncey & Gere 1962 19 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1962-1963 Nov-Sep, BM, Raphael and his Circle (P+G) 1983, BM, Drawings by Raphael, no.84 1986, BM, Florentine Drawings 16thC, no.26 1987-1988 Oct-Jan, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 'Raphael', no. 12 1994 May-June, Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 'Raphael', no.20 1995 Jul-Sept, London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 'Drawing the Line', no.171
    2004-2005 Oct-Jan, London, National Gallery, 'Raphael: From Urbino to Rome', no. 63
    2010 April-July, BM, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo`, no.98
    2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.98

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Pond's Sale 1759 is according to an inscription on verso.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Studies for a Virgin and Child in her arms Pen and brown ink, over traces of red chalk

Studies for a Virgin and Child in her arms Pen and brown ink, over traces of red chalk

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