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Christ Child Asleep on the Lap of the Virgin. Verso: Standing Male Nude and Study of Drapery
Red chalk; partially incised with stylus, on paper; verso: pen and brown ink and wash.
7 1/2 x 5 5/8 inches (191 x 144 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
IV, 42

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In the later stages of his career, Parmigianino was as much consumed by drawing as a means of expression as he had been as a young artist--perhaps even more so, for he drew obsessively and seems to have found the process of invention and design more interesting than that of painting the final work. Beginning in 1530, he received a commission for altarpieces and decorative frescoes at the newly built Santa Maria della Steccata in Parma. Although more than a hundred preparatory drawings are known today, the project was left incomplete at the artist's death. Similarly, nearly fifty drawings have been identified for the altarpiece today known as the Madonna of the Long Neck. This was commissioned on 23 December 1534 by Elena Baiardi Tagliaferri, the sister of Parmigianino's friend and patron Francesco Baiardi, for the funerary chapel of her husband, Francesco Tagliaferri, in the church of Santa Maria dei Servi. Parmigianino was meant to have the work completed by Pentecost of the following year--that is, in the spring of 1536--but it was still unfinished when he died in 1540. In 1542, the piece was finally installed in the chapel with an inscription noting that it was incomplete.
The earliest sketches for the composition indicate that Parmigianino began with a relatively traditional and symmetrical scheme, with the Virgin and child flanked by SS. Jerome and Francis. Parmigianino then shifted the two saints to the right and moved them into the background, although in some of the variant schemes he included the young St. John the Baptist as part of the group with the Virgin and child and in others he introduced angels to the left foreground. At this stage of the project, the Christ child, whether shown as an infant or an older child, was still seated upright. As the pose of the Virgin, the angels, and the background colonnade arrived at their near-final forms, however--for example in a squared drawing at the Louvre (Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. RF 577)--Parmigianino began to experiment with a sleeping child stretched across the lap of his mother in a pose resembling, in reverse, that of the dead Christ in Michelangelo's Vatican Pietà, thus turning the Virgin and child into a proleptic pietà. The child is barely indicated in the Louvre drawing, but he is worked up further in other studies, including a sheet at the J. Paul Getty Museum and a sheet in a private collection. Interestingly, the outline of the Virgin in this last sheet has been pricked for transfer, but it seems likely that this was done to transfer the figure from some other drawing to this sheet, specifically so that the recumbent child could be drawn over the top and reviewed. The Morgan drawing, focusing on the child and bringing his pose still closer to that in the final painting, probably followed these studies. Although the red chalk of the Morgan drawing skips over stylus incisions that indicate that the figures were transferred from another study before being reworked here, the child is at a larger scale than in the above mentioned Louvre, Getty, and private collection studies, so Parmigianino must have had a second series of drawings at this larger scale. In the painted altarpiece, the sleeping Christ appears to be bald, one of the work's strikingly odd characteristics, but the Morgan drawing indicates that the child was probably intended to have hair and that this was one of the parts of the painting simply left incomplete when Parmigianino died.
The verso of the Morgan drawing includes what appear to be two studies of ancient sculpture fragments. The drapery study at lower left, possibly after the seated muse Erato unearthed around the turn of the sixteenth century and later owned by Pope Clement VII, bears a significant resemblance to the Virgin's torso in the Madonna of the Long Neck. It is tempting to suggest that this side of the sheet may have been done during Parmigianino's Roman period and was later consulted and reused during the long evolution of the artist's final masterpiece.


Watermark: none.

Possibly Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585-1646; no mark; see Lugt 508); possibly Anton Marie Zanetti (1680-1757; no mark; see Lugt 779), Venice; Count Cesare Massimiliano Gini (ca. 1739-1821); Giovanni Antonio Armano; Robert Stayner Holford (1808-1892), London and Westonbirt; his sale, Christie's, London, 14 July 1893, lot 657 as "A woman, with a child in her lap, in red chalk ...," bought by Salting; George Salting (1835-1908), London; Sir James Knowles? (1831-1908), London; his sale, Christie's, London, 28 May 1908, lot 209; 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.
Associated names: 

Arundel, Thomas Howard, Earl of, 1585-1646, former owner.
Zanetti, Antonio Maria, 1680-1757, former owner.
Gini, Cesare Massimiliano, Count, approximately 1739-1821, former owner.
Armano, Giovanni Antonio, active 18th century, former owner.
Holford, Robert Stayner, 1808-1892, former owner.
Knowles, James, Sir, 1831-1908, 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.


Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 81.
Selected references: Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 4:42; Buffalo 1935, no. 31; San Francisco 1940, no. 75; Northampton 1941, no. 41; Tietze 1947, no. 39; Worcester 1948, no. 35; Freedberg 1950, 188n143, 254; Popham 1953, 42; Newark 1960, no. 12; Cambridge 1962, no. 18; Popham 1964a, 24, 30n5; New York 1965-66, no. 93; New York and elsewhere 1969, under no. 261; Fagiolo dell'Arco 1970, under no. 37; Harprath 1971, 64, 69; Popham 1971, 1: no. 317; New York 1981, no. 22; Goldner 1988, under no. 28; London and New York 2000-2001, no. 121; Chiusa 2001, 108, 164; Vaccaro 2002, under no. 36; Ekserdjian 2006, 206-7; Gnann 2007, 1: no. 929; Munich 2008-9, no. 14; Paris 2015-16, 34n35.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, IV, 42, repr.
Stampfle, Felice, and Jacob Bean. Drawings from New York collections. I: The Italian Renaissance. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1965, p. 59-60, no. 93, repr.
Denison, Cara D., and Helen B. Mules, with the assistance of Jane V. Shoaf. European Drawings, 1375-1825. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981, no. 22.
100 Master drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum. München : Hirmer, 2008, no. 14, repr. [Laura B. Zukerman]

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