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Studies for the Finding of Moses
ca. 1580
Pen and brown ink and wash, on laid paper.
6 3/4 x 7 3/8 inches (171 x 186 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
IV, 81

Inscribed on verso of old mount, at lower center, in graphite, "4".

Thomas Hudson, London (1701-1779; Lugt 2432); Sir Joshua Reynolds, London (1723-1792; Lugt 2364); Heneage Finch, 5th Earl of Aylesford, London and Packington Old Hall, Warwickshire (1786-1859; Lugt 58); possibly Sir James Knowles (1831-1908), London; possibly his sale, Christie's, London, 27 May 1908, lot 187; 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 energetic draftsmanship of this sheet is typical of Veronese’s preparatory studies, which often feature figures drawn multiple times in slightly different poses and use multiple layers of wash to accentuate and refine a preferred solution from among those poses.1 In this case, the drawing relates to several paintings of the Finding of Moses executed around 1580; the studies are for the figures of Pharaoh’s daughter (standing upright with her left leg bent) and for two attendants, one who stands alongside the princess and another who presents the newly discovered infant.

Most of the previous discussion of this drawing has focused on its relationship to the numerous paintings of the subject executed by Veronese and his workshop in the early 1580s. A small Finding of Moses, of which there are versions in the Prado and the National Gallery of Art, is clearly related. Richard Cocke, however, who focused on the sketches of Pharaoh’s daughter at the right side of the sheet, where she is shown pointing, related the drawing primarily to a lost painting by Veronese known through a copy by Sebastiano Ricci and a chiaroscuro woodcut by John Baptist Jackson.2 Rearick also later emphasized the connections with the lost painting and argued that the drawing related most closely to it, concluding that the lost painting must have been executed before the Madrid and Washington paintings.3 Virtually all previous scholars have argued, moreover, that the Prado version of the painting was made before the Washington version.4

Much of the above line of reasoning can, nonetheless, be overturned. The canvas in Washington has been relatively little studied by scholars in recent decades because it was assumed to be a version made by Veronese or his workshop after the Prado painting. Yet the recent cleaning and examination of the Washington canvas has revealed it to be not only a work of much higher quality than previously thought but also perhaps the original painted version of the composition. The figures at the far right of the canvas, for example, are now known to have been painted atop the woman in the striped dress beside the princess, something unlikely to have happened in a second version. Turning to the Morgan drawing, furthermore, it must be noted that the direction and strength of the light and shadow (the attendant in shadow but with her head poking into the light, or the fall of light on the drapery study at the center of the sheet), the pose of Pharaoh’s daughter emphasizing her bent left knee, and especially the construction of her dress, with a distinct X-shape across her torso, relate directly to the Washington painting. The dress in the Washington version, however, has been repainted—it was originally closer to the dress in the Prado version—which complicates matters. It is probable that the Washington and Madrid paintings were actually created simultaneously in the studio, as Joanna Dunn has suggested.5

As noted above, it was Veronese’s common practice to draw multiple versions of a figure and then apply wash to refine his preferred solution and distinguish it from the other sketches on the page. He would, however, sometimes return to a sheet to select alternate versions for later paintings of the same subject. This is likely what happened with the Morgan drawing: the structure of the princess’s dress matches the Washington painting, implying that the drawing was made for that work, but the figure’s gestures in the studies at right are closer to the lost version known in Ricci’s copy, suggesting that Veronese returned to the sheet for this second composition. When Veronese was commissioned to paint a horizontal version of the composition a few years later (a painting now in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin), he would likely have returned to this sheet as inspiration even as he made the additional studies on the sheets now at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,6 and at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.7



  1. For a recent summary of Veronese as a draftsman, see Marciari 2012a.
  2. Cocke 1984, 242–43; the lost painting and Ricci’s copy are fully discussed in Coutts 1982.
  3. Rearick in Washington 1988a, no. 73.
  4. In addition to the sources already cited, see Pignatti and Pedrocco 1995, 394–95, Brown 1989, 120–21, and Salomon 2014, 161.
  5. I am grateful to Joanna Dunn for sharing her work on the Washington painting with me. For our more complete discussion of the implications of those findings with respect to both the Morgan drawing and the Washington and Madrid paintings, see Dunn and Marciari 2019.
  6. Inv. pd.21-1997. See Scrase 2011, 667–68.
  7. Inv. 1987.24.4a. See Venice 2014–15, no. 29; see also New York and Washington 2018–19, 42–44, 187–88, no. 13.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 70.
John Marciari, Drawing in Tintoretto's Venice, New York, 2018, no. 12, fig. 19, repr.
Selected references: Caliari 1888, 95; Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 4: no. 81; Borenius 1921, 59; Hadeln 1926, 27; Osmond 1927, 100; Fiocco 1928, no. 2; Toledo 1940, no. 57; Tietze and Tietze-Conrat 1944, no. 2121; Oehler 1953, 31; Hartford 1960, no. 70; Toronto 1960, no. 48; Ames 1962, no. 233; New York 1965-66, no. 126; Poughkeepsie 1968, no. 27; Norman 1975, 3; Pignatti 1976, 1: under no. 240; Morris and Hopkinson 1977, 218; London 1978, 69; Meder 1978, 123; New York 1981, no. 26; Coutts 1982, 230; Sutton 1982, 381; London 1983-84, under no. D81; Cocke 1984, no. 103; Coutts 1985-86, no. 103; Venice 1988, under no. 62; Washington 1988a, no. 73; Pignatti and Pedrocco 1995, 2: nos. 282-83; Venice 1999, no. 202; De Fuccia 2005, 44-55; New York 2006, no. 18; Munich 2008-9, no. 18; Udine 2012, no. 6; Verona 2014, no. 5.10; New York and Washington 2018-19, 42, 182, 187-88, no. 12; Dunn and Marciari 2019.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, IV, 81, 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. 72, 126.
Denison, Cara D., and Helen B. Mules, with the assistance of Jane V. Shoaf. European Drawings, 1375-1825. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981, p. 52, 26, repr.
From Leonardo to Pollock: Master drawings from the Morgan Library. New York: Morgan Library, 2006, cat. no. 18, p. 42-43.
100 Master drawings from the Morgan Library & Museum. München : Hirmer, 2008, no. 18, repr. [Laura B. Zukerman]


Watermark: barely visible due to thickness of backing.
In his later drawings, Veronese typically used wash to highlight and further elaborate preferred solutions from among his often-overlapping ideas. What is interesting, though, is that there is no single resolution to his studies here for the Finding of Moses. Veronese and his workshop produced many versions of the subject, and this sheet includes figure studies of Pharaoh's daughter and her maids that relate to at least three paintings: some are for the Finding of Moses painting in the National Gallery of Art, while others connect to the version in the Museo del Prado, and still others to a lost painting known from copies. This tendency to reuse existing drawings is typical of many Venetian workshops. -- Exhibition Label, from "Drawing in Tintoretto's Venice"

Associated names: 

Hudson, Thomas, 1701-1779, former owner.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792, former owner.
Aylesford, Heneage Finch, Earl of, 1786-1859, former owner.
Knowles, James, Sir, 1831-1908, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, John Pierpont, 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.

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