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Cardinal Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini

Rome After Raphael
January 22 through May 9, 2010

Raphael (1483–1520)
Cardinal Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini Presents Eleanor of Portugal to Emperor Frederick III, 1502–4
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white gouache (original heightening almost completely lost, later retouched), over black chalk and stylus indentations. Substantial losses and severely abraded.
559 x 421 mm (22 x 16 1/2 in.)
Inscribed, possibly by the artist, near upper edge, left of center, in pen and brown ink, Questa e la quinta [st]oria de Papa [Pio].
Bequest of Alice B. Tully; acc. no. 1996.9

This large-scale drawing is a finished compositional study, or modello, for one of the frescoes commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, archbishop of Siena, from the Sienese painter Bernardino Pinturicchio (ca. 1452–1513). In a contract dated 29 June 1502, Pinturicchio agreed to decorate the walls of the library, adjacent to the north aisle of the cathedral of Siena, with a series of ten frescoes illustrating historic events from the life of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the cardinal's uncle and most distinguished member of the Piccolomini family, who had reigned as Pope Pius II from 1458 until 1464. As the inscription at the top of the drawing indicates, the sheet is a study for the fifth fresco in the cycle, which depicts the first meeting in 1452 of the Holy Roman emperor Frederick III and his betrothed, Eleanor of Portugal, outside the Porta Camollia of Siena. Between them stands Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, then a bishop, bestowing a blessing on the pair whose marriage he had helped to arrange during an ecclesiastical mission at the imperial court. The figures are gathered in a circle around a marble column, which was erected to commemorate the occasion and still stands to this day. The modello differs only in minor details from the fresco, which, like the rest of the cycle, was executed by Pinturicchio and his workshop. Notably, the drawing was cropped and no longer retains the lunette-shaped upper third of the composition, and it does not include the view of Siena that appears at the upper left in the finished fresco. Pinturicchio somewhat flattened the composition by enlarging the garments of many of the foreground figures and embellishing the fabrics with more decorative details.

That the experienced Pinturicchio, thirty years Raphael's senior, should avail himself of the younger master's inventions may surprise; in fact, the drawing was periodically attributed to Pinturicchio, though modern scholars generally accept Raphael's authorship. At least three additional drawings by Raphael associated with the Piccolomini project attest to his substantial involvement. Two are in the Uffizi, one of which is a compositional study in pen and ink and wash, similar in degree of finish to the present drawing. It is preparatory to the fresco The Departure of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini for the Council of Basel.1 The second is a loosely executed sketch for a group of riders in the same fresco.2 Another exploratory sketch in metalpoint on pale blue prepared paper in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford,3 is a study for the group of halberdiers in the middle distance of the scene Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini Crowned Poet Laureate.4

Raphael's contribution is also recorded by Giorgio Vasari, who in his life of the artist notes that Raphael supplied some of the preparatory studies for the Piccolimini library frescoes.5 In a second passage, Vasari goes even further. Mentioning a cartoon "still to be seen in Siena," which may possibly be identified as the present drawing, he asserts Raphael's sole responsibility for all "sketches and cartoons."6

Rhoda Eitel-Porter

1. Inv. 520 E.
2. Inv. 573E.
3. K.T. Parker, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum, 2 vols., Oxford, 1956, vol. 2, no. 510.
4. A drawing in the collection of the dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth representing Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini as Envoy at the Court of Eugenius IV is considered to be by an anonymous collaborator of Pinturicchio or to be a copy after Raphael. A study in the collection of Steven Juvelis, now on deposit at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, is considered by some to be by Raphael, but the present author has not seen it.
5. Giorgio Vasari, ed., Everyman's Library, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by Gaston du C. De Vere with an introduction and notes by David Ekserdjian, 2 vols, 1996, vol. 1, p. 712.
6. Giorgio Vasari, ed., Everyman's Library, Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, translated by Gaston du C. De Vere with an introduction and notes by David Ekserdjian, 2 vols, 1996, vol. 1, p. 571: "Pinturicchio was summoned to Siena by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini to paint the library made by Pope Pius II in the Duomo of that city. It is true, indeed, that the sketches and cartoons for all the scenes that he painted there were by the hand of Raffaello da Urbino, then a youth, who had been his companion and fellow-disciple under the same Pietro [Perugino], whose manner the said Raffaello had mastered very well. One of these cartoons is still to be seen at the present day in Siena."

Probably Francesco Piccolomini (1439–1503), Siena; probably by descent to Irene Piccolomini (1565–1593), Siena, who married Conte Tiberio Baldeschi (1542–1622) in 1586; Conte Baldeschi, Perugia, and his descendants from 1586 until at least 1915 (Panofsky records the drawing as in the Baldeschi collection in Erwin Panofsky, "Raffael und die Fresken in der Dombibliothek von Siena," Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft, 37, 1915, pp. 269, 278–88, fig. 7); Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878–1955), Florence and Rome; perhaps inherited by Conte Alessandro Augusto Contini Bonacossi and his siblings; Alice Tully (1902–1993), New York.

Select Bibliography:
Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, 1568 ed., with notes by Gaetano Milanesi, 9 vols., Florence, 1878–85, vol. 3, pp. 526–27.

Erwin Panofsky, "Raffael und die Fresken in der Dombibliothek von Siena," Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 37, 1915, pp. 269, 278–88, fig. 7.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter, in From Leonardo to Pollock. Master Drawings From the Morgan Library, exhibition catalogue, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2006, pp. 26–27, no.11, repr.