The Calumny of Apelles, after Andrea Mantegna; a king seated on a throne at l, flanked by two female figures, a man with long ears facing him and urging on a woman holding a torch and dragging a child by the hair, two figures at far r holding council. 1652-4 Pen and brown ink, with brown wash, on grey-brown prepared paper Verso: A plan of fortifications; with cannons in position and various buildings within. c.1620 Pen and brown ink, with watercolour, on light grey-brown prepared paper


© The Trustees of the British Museum

  • RectoRecto
  • UnknownUnknown
  • RectoRecto

Department: Prints & Drawings

Registration number: 1860,0616.86

Bibliographic reference
Benesch 1973 1207
Royalton-Kisch 2010 46 (Rembrandt)
Hind 1915-31 80

Dutch Roy XVIIc

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Object types
drawing (scope note | all objects)

paper (all objects)
drawn (scope note | all objects)
Production person
Drawn by Anonymous (verso) (all objects)
After Andrea Mantegna (biographical details | all objects)
Drawn by Rembrandt (biographical details | all objects)
1652-1654 (circa)
Schools /Styles
Italian (all objects)
Dutch (scope note | all objects)

The Calumny of Apelles; a king seated on a throne at left, flanked by two female figures, a man with long ears facing him and urging on a woman holding a torch and dragging a child by the hair, two figures at far right holding council; after Andrea Mantegna. 1652-1654
Pen and brown ink with brown wash on paper prepared with brown wash
Verso: Plan of a Fort, c.1620 (not by Rembrandt); the verso contains no brown, only grey wash but is touched with pinkish wash for the brickwork
No watermark

Inscription Content: Recto, by the artist in pen and brown ink above the figures: 'susp[ic]ione [?]'; 'inoracia'; 'ividia [this below the figure]'; 'CaLomnia/d’apella [below the figure]'; 'acnoni [?]'; 'inocencia [below the child]'; 'insidia [?]'; 'penitencia' and 'Veritas'; inscribed verso, top centre to right in pen and brown ink in a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century hand: 'V.G./ 7'; lower left in black chalk: 'P'.

Inscribed on a sheet, perhaps the old backing, accompanying the drawing in four hands as follows:
(1) By Jonathan Richardson, sen. (see L.2994, which reproduces the first few words), in pen and brown ink: 'N.45. Mr Gautier has seen the Original of this with Mr. Vanderschelling at Amsterdam. ’Tis since brought into England by Gautier. Apelles was accused to King Ptolomey of having conspired with Theodata a Tyrian woman against him, and that the Revolt of Tyre, and losse of Pelusium happened by his means; the Accuser was Antiphilus, also a Painter. The King naturally Impetuous and always from his Youth accustomed to Flattery was exceeding enraged, and without enquiring into the thing, or considering the Probability of it, made his Palace ring with Exclamations, and Reproaches against Apelles, and had probably taken his head but that one who was really in the Conspiracy enraged at the Malice and Impudence of Antiphilus, and compassionating Apelles undeceav’d the King, who repenting of his Credulity gave 100 Talents to Apelles, and his accuser to be his Slave. The Story is in Lucian.'
'Apelles on this occasion made a Picture from the Description of wch ['ch' is in superscript] in Lucian Andrea Mantegna (after whom this Dr: is coppy’d by Rembr:) made a Drawing which I have lately seen, and of wch ['ch' is in superscript] this is a fine Coppy. The Figures by the King are Mistrust and Ignorance, that conducting Calumny is Envy, that wch Calumny has in her Right hand is a burning Torch, that tis the Innocent Accused shee draggs by the hair is evident enough; the Figures that follow, one exhorting, or pushing on Calumny, the other Dressing her up are Treachery & Deceit: lastly comes Truth accompany’d by Repentance.
(2) By Arthur Pond, in graphite: 'true.'.
(3) By John Barnard, in pen and brown ink: 'the above by Mr. Richardson. I met with the original of this by Andrea Mantegna, by great Accident, Mr. Gautiers Name was wrote by Himself on the back of the Paper to which it was fastened; it is still in very good Preservation. J:B. Janry['ry' is in superscript]: 20th: 1771./ J:B. N°:506 15 1/2 x 10 1\4.'.
(4) In pen and brown ink by Barnard: 'the 11th night Lot 37' (referring to Richardson’s sale).
(5) In pen and brown ink: 'Price' (see Provenance).

Height: 263 millimetres
Width: 432 millimetres (with two strips conjoined)

Reasonably good, although somewhat rubbed, creased and faded; a few thin spots and pin-sized holes, two of which (in the hips of ‘Calomnia’) were made by the draughtsman of the plan on the verso and mark an angle in the fortified walls.

Curator's comments
The original sheet was extended prior to the execution of the drawing by just under 20 mm each side with strips of a different paper washed tobacco brown to make a total width of 432 (26h). The strips were added before the verso drawing was made, which continues onto it without interruption

Entry from Martin Royalton-Kisch, 'Catalogue of drawings by Rembrandt and his school', 2010, Rembrandt, cat. no.46:
A copy of a drawing made in around 1504-6 by Andrea Mantegna which is also in the British Museum's collection (1860-0616.85).[1] Although impossible to prove, it seems likely that Rembrandt once owned the Mantegna and that it formed part of 'the precious book of Andrea Mantegna' (''t kostelijcke boeck van Andre de Mantaingie') that is listed in the 1656 inventory of his possessions.[2] The Mantegna was engraved, with substantial differences including an architectural background, by Girolamo Mocetto (Bartsch xiii, p. 113, no.10), a print to which Rembrandt does not appear to have referred.
The copy is a more precise transcription than Rembrandt usually made from other original material (e.g. cat. no.11; 1900,0611.7). Even the style of the inscriptions is imitated, albeit inaccurately (e.g. 'inoracia' for Mantegna's 'ignoratia', 'acnoni [?]' for the almost illegible 'decptione'; but Rembrandt translates 'Veritas' into Latin from the Italian 'Verita').[3] Yet despite the effort of replication the present drawing has many characteristics that are Rembrandt's own. The freedom with which it is executed, without a preparatory underdrawing, has led to several minor differences and omissions of detail, but more than in these the contrast lies in the two artists' fundamentally different approaches to form, Rembrandt's the more ethereal and diaphanous, Mantegna's the more definite and immutable. Rembrandt's admiration for the quattrocento master is witnessed by other works of the 1650s, in particular in his etching of the 'Madonna with the Cat' of 1654 (Bartsch 63, Hind 275), partly based on Mantegna's engraving of the 'Madonna and Child' (Bartsch 8). A large copy in New York after Mantegna's engraved 'Entombment' is likewise attributed to Rembrandt, but because of its uncharacteristic technique the attribution has been called into question.[4]
The subject is from Lucian, although Mantegna's immediate source, in spite of a few deviations, was probably the Latin translation by Bordo, published in Venice in 1494.[5] The story is related in Richardson's inscription on the sheet that accompanies the drawing, transcribed as no.1 under Inscription. There is no reason to suppose that Rembrandt turned to the text or any other source while making his copy. Had he done so, the transcriptions he made from Mantegna's handwriting might have been more accurate. Nonetheless, he was probably familiar with the story which had been illustrated by several Renaissance (or later) artists besides Mantegna, including Botticelli, Franciabigio, Luca Penni, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (in a drawing in the Museum's collection, 1959,0214.1), Lambert Lombard (in drawings in the Fondazione Horne, Florence, no.5932, Gernsheim photo no.114778, and Liège - see Denhaene, 2006, pp.404-6) and Maerten De Vos (in a painting sold at Christie's, London, 9 July, 1993, lot 29). That Lucian's story was known to seventeenth-century Dutch artists therefore seems likely. Karel van Mander appears obliquely to have referred to the 'Calumny' in his treatise, 'Den grondt der edel vry schilder-const' of 1604, when he wrote that 'Ignorance is the mother of Dissatisfaction' ('Onverstand is moeder van onvreden').[6] Rembrandt's own interest in its imagery probably predates the present drawing by more than a decade, as in 1644 he drew an 'Allegory of Art Criticism' (New York, Lehmann Collection, Benesch A35a) which incorporates elements common to Mantegna's and others' designs, including an enthroned figure with asses' ears on the left.[7]
The drawing has generally been dated to the mid-1650s, largely on the grounds that Rembrandt may have copied the Mantegna soon before it was sold with his collection in 1658.[8] The style argues in support of a dating slightly before this period, the abbreviated facial features being particularly characteristic of the first half of the 1650s. The two drawings of 1652 in the Six album, of 'Homer reciting' and 'Minerva in her Study' (Benesch nos.913-14) perhaps mark the earliest possible date for the 'Calumny'. By around 1656, when Rembrandt sketched the 'Anatomy Lesson of Dr Deyman' (Benesch 1175, Amsterdam), the more liquid style of his later drawings appears to have entered his work. The somewhat even hatching seen throughout the drawing and the handwriting are not entirely characteristic of Rembrandt, but on balance it seems more reasonable to attribute this to the fact that he was here reflecting the Mantegna rather than by assigning the work to another hand, although as so often, the possibility remains that a pupil, such as Willem Drost, could have been responsible for the drawing.
On the verso is a sketch of an unidentified fortress made by an earlier and undistinguished hand. A plausible date for this c.1620 has been suggested.[9]

[1] See Popham and Pouncey, loc. cit., n.1 under Provenance. The authenticity of the Mantegna was questioned by Berenson and Kristeller. The Rembrandt had two early-detractors in Hofstede de Groot and Seidlitz (see Lit. below) but has not otherwise been doubted.
[2] See Strauss and van der Meulen, 1979, p.369, no.200. The inventory does not specify the contents, nor whether they were prints and/or drawings. The word 'kostelijck' is rarely used in the inventory, the use of the definite article also being unusual and suggesting an exceptionally important item.
[3] No other Latin or non-Dutch inscriptions by Rembrandt are known (as pointed out by Broos, 1982, p.248).
[4] By Benesch, 1973, no.A105a. For a defence of the drawing, and a general discussion of Rembrandt and Mantegna, see Rosenberg, 1956[II] and Royalton-Kisch and Ekserdjian, 2000.
[5] See Förster, 1887; a summary in Popham and Pouncey, loc. cit.
[6] See the edition of the 'Grondt' by Hessel Miedema, Utrecht, 1973, II, p.377. A supposed portrait of Lucian by Rembrandt that belonged to Picart is discussed by Slive, 1953, pp.135f., with fig.32. For the history of representations of the subject, see Massing, 1990.
[7] As suggested by Emmens, 1964 (see Lit. below); see further New York, 1999, no.70 and Westermann, 2000, p.205.
[8] For the sales, see cat. no.56 (1895,0915.1275, Benesch 1187), n.7.
[9] By Hind in London, 1915 (see Lit. below). Benesch follows this (in 1957/73).

LITERATURE (as Rembrandt unless otherwise stated):
Blanc, II, 1861, p.456 (after Mantegna); Nichols, 1863, p.36 (copied from Mantegna when in Six coll.); Carr, 1877, p.5 (provenance; contrasts draughtsmanship of Rembrandt and Mantegna); Förster, 1887, p.48 (compares Mantegna's original, with joint Barnard provenance; notes inaccuracy of Rembrandt's transcriptions); Müntz, 1892, pp.198 and 204; Hofstede de Groot, 1893, p.421 (not Rembrandt; apart from tradition little speaks for him); Michel, 1893, p.582; Hofstede de Groot, 1894, p.179, no.8 (attribution uncertain; verso resembles Turin and Antwerp); Seidlitz, 1894, p.123 (attribution doubtful; handwriting not like Rembrandt's; ex-coll, van der Schelling); Lippmann, I, no.119; Kleinmann, II, no.52; Valentiner, 1905, p.68 (perhaps c.1655, just prior to sale; the Mantegna a school work); Hofstede de Groot, 1906, no.894; Wurzbach, 1910, p.417; Hind, 1912, I, p.40 (no proof that original belonged to Rembrandt); London, 1915, no.80 (c.1650 or earlier; with some details of provenance and of Mantegna's original; rejects doubts of Seidlitz, 1894, believing handwriting to imitate Mantegna's; verso perhaps as early as c.1620); Giglioli, 1920, p.176 (notes discrepancies in transcriptions); Weisbach, 1926, pp.57 and 446 (original by school of Mantegna); Hell, 1930, p.105, n.1 and p.106 (compares figure of Mary in an unspecified painting, said to be dated 1656 and repr. 'Klassiker der Kunst' supplement 'W.G.84' [a ref. not found]; typical approach to form of this period); Hind, 1931, repr. pl.2; Hind, 1932, p.61; Valentiner, II, 1934, no.621B, repr. (c.1650-55; otherwise as London, 1915); Benesch, 1935, p.54 (mid-1650s; original of Mantegna's school); Benesch, 1935[I], p.266 (c.1653-5); Benesch, 1947, p.27 and no.241, repr. (c.1656; after school of Mantegna drawing; notes influence of Mantegna on 'Madonna with the Cat' etching, Bartsch 63, Hind 275); Rosenberg, 1956[II], p.155 (c.1656; made as a close record, as with Mughal miniatures [see cat. nos.56-62, respectively 1895,0915.1275, Gg,2.263, 1910,0212.182, 1895,0915.1280, 1895,0915.1281 and Gg,2.262, Benesch 1187, 1190, 1199, 1200, 1204 and 1205]; discusses copy of Mantegna's 'Entombment', Benesch A105a); Benesch, V, 1957/73, no.1207, repr. fig. 1431/1507 (c.1656; compares paintings of the 1650s; praises rhythm and luminosity of style); Benesch, 1960, p.29 and no.89, repr. (c.1656; expands Mantegna's composition; greater vibrancy of surface); Exh. New York-Cambridge, 1960, p.50, under no.69 (with other examples of Mantegna's influence); White, 1962, repr. pl.9 (c.1655); Emmens, 1964, p.153, repr. fig.30, reprinted 1979, II, p.208, fig.29 (see n.7 above); Gantner, 1964, p.78; Slive, 1964, p.278, repr. fig.13 (mid-1650s); Slive, 1965, I, no.121, repr. (c.1655; quotes Rosenberg, 1956[II]); Clark, 1966, pp.150-51, repr. p.149, fig.140 (total subordination of Rembrandt to Mantegna's style); Bloch, 1967, p.716 (as Clark, 1966); White, 1969, I, p.80 (figures merge with background more than in Mantegna's original); Campbell, 1971, p.140 (shares Mantegna's interest in relief compositions); Held, 1972, p.17 (nowhere else did Rembrandt treat so many allegorical figures together); Held, 1973, p.58 (as in 1972); Kauffmann, 1973, p.53, repr. fig.19 (c.1655; unusually careful copy); White, 1975, p.376 (notes freedom of copy; compares landscape copy after Titian in Lugt coll.); Broos, 1977, p.121 (with some lit.); Reznicek, 1977, p.80, n.10; Clark, 1978, p.97, repr. p.96, fig.102; Broos, 1982, p.248, repr. fig.2 (probably made before the sale of 1658; the only non-Dutch inscription known by Rembrandt; otherwise as London, 1915); Broos, 1983[I], pp.4-5, repr. fig.3; Exh. Washington, 1990, p.135, n.1 and p.158 (style compared to copies after Titian, especially that in Berlin, KdZ 17598, Washington cat. no.38); Massing, 1990, p.268, no.6AC (greater interest in Mantegna's style than in allegorical content); Schatborn, 1994, p.23; Royalton-Kisch and Ekserdijan, 2000, p.54, fig.3; Westermann, 2000, p.205, repr. fig.133 (as Emmens, 1964).

allegory/personification (scope note | all objects)
castle/fort (verso) (scope note | all objects)

Associated names
Associated with Apelles (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition date

Acquisition name
Purchased through Christie's (7.vi.1860/762 as Rembrandt 'THE CALUMNY OF APELLES. A curious and highly intersting drawing from the) (biographical details | all objects)
Purchased through A E Evans & Sons (biographical details | all objects)
Purchased from Samuel Woodburn (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Benjamin West (L.419) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection S van der Schelling (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Jonathan Richardson Senior (L.2184) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Arthur Pond (L.2038) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Sir Thomas Lawrence (L.2445) (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection Salomon Gautier (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection William Esdaile (biographical details | all objects)
Previous owner/ex-collection John Barnard (L.1419) (biographical details | all objects)

Acquisition notes
Provenance:[1] S. Gautier; Jonathan Richardson, sen. (L.2184); his sale, London, Cock, 11th day, 3 February, 1747 (1746 old style), lot 37, bt Price, £1-10-0 with three others but not Mantegna's original; A. Pond (L.2038 in graphite on accompanying sheet); J. Barnard (L.1419 on accompanying sheet); his sale, Greenwood, 1st night, 16 February, 1787, lot 88 with the Mantegna, bt West, £15-15-0; Benjamin West (L.419); his sale, Christie's, 4th day, 13 June, 1820, lot 53, bt Woodburn, £10-0-0;[2] Thomas Lawrence (L.2445; in his MS inventory, case 5, drawer 2, kept with the Mantegna); William Esdaile (no mark but in his sale; he purchased Lawrence's Rembrandts in 1835 - see cat. no.15 (1895,0915.1264, Benesch 286); Esdaile's sale, Christie's, 17 June, 1840, lot 120 bt Woodburn £27-6-0 with the Mantegna; Samuel Woodburn sale, Christie's, 4th day, 7 June, 1860, lot 762. NOTES ON PROVENANCE: [1] In the past literature the drawing is often stated to have been in the ‘Vanderschelling’ collection, doubtless on the basis of a misreading of Richardson’s annotation, which refers to this collector as having possessed Mantegna’s original. The mistake seems first to have been made in the Woodburn sale catalogue. For the provenance of the original (van der Schelling; Gautier; Barnard; bt West at his sale but apparently divided by him from the Rembrandt; then Lawrence, etc. as for the present sheet) see A. E. Popham and Philip Pouncey, 'Italian Drawings in the […] British Museum. The fourteenth and fifteenth Centuries', London, 1950, no.158; the Rembrandt’s provenance was discussed in Exh. London, 1981, no.59. The drawing features on Gautier’s list of drawings, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Rawlinson MS D.903; kindly communicated to me by Carol Gibson-Wood, letter of 18 Feb. 1999, writing that Gautier must have sold the Rembrandt copy to Richardson before acquiring the Mantegna). [2] Described in West’s sale catalogue as a copy by Mantegna after [!] Rembrandt’s 'Apelles accused before King Ptolemy'.

Exhibition History
London, Lawrence Gallery, 1835, no.100;
British Museum, 1899, no.A75 (possibly c.1650-60);
1938, no.80;
1956, p.16, no.1a;
1972-3, no.125;
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1981, 'Drawing: Technique & Purpose', no.59 (see n.1 under Provenance);
1992, BM, 'Drawings by Rembrandt and his Circle', no.53, repr. in colour (c.1652-4).

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