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The Contest of Apollo and Marsyas
ca. 1527-1530
Pen and brown ink and wash, with white opaque watercolor, over black chalk, on paper.
8 2/25 x 5 20/32 inches (202 x 141 mm; maximum dimensions)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
IV, 44

Inscribed on verso in graphite, "1678; Sir Chas. Greville."

Probably Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel (1585-1646; see Lugt 508); by descent to Henry Stafford-Howard, 1st Earl of Stafford (1658-1719); his sale, Tart Hall, London, 1720; Antoino Maria Zanetti (1680-1775; see Lugt 779), Venice (no mark; see Lugt 2992f-h); Everhard Jabach (1618-1695), Paris (no mark; see Lugt 2959; his inventory folio 85 no. 81 "Parmigianino - Apollon debout et Marsyas assis dans un ovale à la plume lavé et haussé sur papier bistré long de 8 1/4 et haut de 10 1/2 pouces 2 livres[livres superscript] 10 sols[sols superscript]"); Gerhard Michael Jabach (-1753); his sale, Amsterdam, 16 October 1753, lot 554; Isaac Walraven (1686-1765; no mark; see Lugt 2034), Amsterdam; his sale, De Winter & Yver, Amsterdam, 14 October 1765, portfolio E, lot 275 "Apollo en Marsias, in een Ovaal Formaat, getekend als de voorige (met de Pen en lugtig gewassen me Oostindische Inkt, en gehoogt)"; A. Rutgers (1695-1778; no mark; see Lugt 1852); his sale, De Winter & Yver, Amsterdam 1 December 1778, portfolio G, lot 435; possibly John McGowan (-1804), Edinburgh (no mark; see Lugt 1496); his? sale T. Philipe, London, 30 January 1804, lot 445 "Parmeggiano. Apollo and Marsyas, free pen and Indian ink, heightened, fine; with the print in chiaroscuro"; Baron Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825; Lugt 780), Paris (Lugt 780); his sale Paris, 1826, lot 387; SSir Charles Greville (1763-1836), English army officer (Lugt 549); George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick (1818-1893) Warwick Castle (Lugt 2600); his sale Christie's, London, 21 May 1896, part of lot 260, as Parmegiano "Apollo and Marsyas; and another Sketch"; Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.

The drawing is a finished modello by Parmigianino for an unsigned chiaroscuro woodcut traditionally attributed to Ugo da Carpi.1 At left, Apollo plays a viola instead of the lyre with which he is typically associated. Apollo’s pose is loosely dependent on the famous ancient sculpture of the Apollo Belvedere, which was installed in 1503 in the Belvedere courtyard of the Vatican Palace.2 The seated figure, at right, likely represents the satyr Marsyas. Ovid, Apollodorus, and Hyginus tell the story of his hubris in challenging Apollo to a musical contest, and how on losing, Marsyas was flayed alive. Marsyas is usually represented in completely human form except for his pointed ears, and sometimes a short tail.

The sheet is one of a series of drawings by Parmigianino illustrating the legend of Apollo and Marsyas as narrated by Hyginus, a Roman scholar and friend of Ovid’s.3 This surviving group includes another five finished studies in oval frames, now in the Louvre, which – like the Morgan sheet – were once in the collection of Everhard Jabach.4 Before the connection with the other drawings was recognized, the satyr in the Morgan sheet was occasionally identified as the faun Pan, who lost to Apollo in a similar context while playing the syrinx or reed pipes.

Parmigianino made several designs for chiaroscuro woodcuts during his sojourn in Bologna after having fled Rome during the sack of the city in 1527. An impression of the second state of Ugo da Carpi’s woodcut is kept with the drawing at the Morgan. There is a large finished copy of the present drawing by Andrea Schiavone, which is now also in the Morgan’s collection.5


  1. The Illustrated Bartsch, 12: 123-24, no. 24.
  2. Bober and Rubinstein 1986, 71-72, no. 28.
  3. Gnann 2007, 1: 447-49, nos. 606-16
  4. Louvre, Paris, inv. 6412, 6412bis, 6413, 6415, 6433.
  5. Morgan Library & Museum, New York, inv. 1979.59.

Selected references: Duval 1829, 3: plate 174; Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 4: no. 44; Popham 1950, 284, under no. 597; Philadelphia 1950-51, no. 40; Wiles 1966, 99-100; Stockholm 1970, 32, no. 35; Popham 1971, 1: 124, no. 319; Trotter 1974, 228; Palo Alto 1980-81, 40, under no. 74; New York 1981, no. 21; Olszewski 1981, 130-31; Saslow 1986, 111; Birke and Kertész 1995, under no. 2665; Wyss 1996, 100-07, 149; Paris 1999-2000, 458, no. 558; London and New York 2000-01, 123, no. 78; Gnann 2001, 234, no. 78; Rome and Weimar 2001, nos. 8, 68; Gnann 2002, 296, note 12; Py 2002, 178, no. 739; Matteo Burioni, in Nova 2006, 52, 78; Zecher 2007, 61-6; Gnann 2007, 448, no. 612.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, IV, 44, repr.


Watermark: none.
Finished modello for chiaroscuro woodcut attributed to Ugo da Carpi.
Oval design.

Associated names: 

Arundel, Thomas Howard, Earl of, 1585-1646, former owner.
Stafford, Henry Stafford Howard, Earl of, approximately 1648-approximately 1719, former owner.
Zanetti, Antonio Maria, 1680-1757, former owner.
Jabach, Everhard, 1618-1695, former owner.
Jabach, Gerhard Michael, -1753, former owner.
Walraven, Izaak, 1686-1765, former owner.
McGowan, John, -1804, former owner.
Rutgers, A., 1695-1778, former owner.
McGouan, John, former owner.
Denon, Vivant, 1747-1825, former owner.
Greville, Charles, 1762-1832, former owner.
Warwick, George Guy Greville, Earl of, 1818-1893, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.

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