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red chalk over stylus (recto); pen and brown ink (verso)
114 by 93mm
This newly discovered double-sided drawing provides an exciting opportunity to understand more fully the early work of Raphael. Delicately drawn in soft red chalk over stylus, it is similar in style to drawings he made around 1504-1505. This dating, which has been accepted by several scholars, was proposed by Paul Joannides who has also suggested that this could be the earliest known red chalk drawing by the artist. The head is extremely close in pose and physiognomy to that of the Christ Child in the Ansidei Madonna, the altarpiece Raphael painted in 1505 for Bernardo Ansidei's chapel in S. Fiorenzo, Perugia (now in the National Gallery, London; see K. Oberhuber, Raphael, The Paintings, Munich 1999, p. 46). In the painting, the Christ Child bends his gaze down further to the left as He is reading a missal in the Madonna's lap, but otherwise the plump cheeks, the large ear and the double chin are very close to those of this study. No other drawings connected with the painting are known.
By 1505, Raphael was already living in Florence, although he continued to travel and must have returned to Perugia to execute the Ansidei altarpiece. It is the last of his major works to reflect so closely the influence of Perugino and it shows great firmness and control of composition and figures. By this stage in his life, Raphael had already absorbed the work of artists of the previous generation, such as Verrocchio, Pollaiolo, Masaccio and Donatello, as well as of Perugino and his contemporaries, and evolved his own individual style. In 1505, he then had what Konrad Oberhuber has termed 'the new encounter with Florence', being exposed to the impact of the revolutionary works of Michelangelo and Leonardo. It is thought that Raphael's use of red chalk arose from his knowledge of Leonardo's work in that medium. The profound influence of Leonardo has been pointed out by many scholars (see Paul Joannides, 'The Florentine Period', in The Drawings of Raphael, Oxford 1983, pp. 16-19), and the drawings in the Taccuini verde and grigio, most of which are now in Lille, show his close study of Leonardo's paintings and drawings. Paul Joannides has also noted stylistic and morphological similarities with two other studies of a child's head, one in the Staedel, Frankfurt and the other in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg, both silverpoint on prepared paper and possibly related to the Madonna del Granduca (see Joannides, op.cit., nos. 106, 107).
The verso of this drawing is also fascinating. It appears to show a metal vessel, possibly an incense burner. Paul Joannides has pointed out the stylistic similarities, particularly in the insistence and repetition of lines, with the verso of a Raphael drawing in the Uffizi (inv. no. 1476E), which are also studies of metalwork. There are also studies for a candelabra on the verso of an earlier drawing in the Ashmolean (see Joannides, op.cit., p. 145, no. 53 and p. 134, no. 3). In 1491, Raphael's father had married Bernardina di Piero, who came from a family of goldsmiths, and there was a strong tradition of contact between painters and goldsmiths at the end of the 15th century. Vara Lauder has kindly informed us of documents recording Raphael's own involvement in designing objects for metalwork. In 1510, the goldsmith Cesarino Rossetti da Perugia, at that time working in Rome, acknowledges the receipt of 25 ducats for the making of two bronze salvers for Agostino Chigi from floral designs by Raphael. When Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, was defeated by Pope Leo X, he had to melt down his silver and it seems that both his mother and his wife tried to rescue two basins with bronze handles which had been designed by Raphael, by offering them to Isabella d'Este (see Luke Syson and Dora Thornton, Objects of Vertu, Art in Renaissance Italy, London 2001, p. 160). Apparently Perugino also provided drawings to goldsmiths and his interest in metalwork is evident in his paintings, as it is in Raphael's. It also hardly needs mentioning that one of Raphael's leading pupils, Giulio Romano, was an almost unparalleled designer of silver and metal objects for his patrons, the Gonzaga. Yet apart from the few examples mentioned above, it seems that no other drawings by Raphael relating to metalwork have survived.
This lot is sold unframed.
London, United Kingdom