Inscribed at lower right, in black chalk, "1585"; beneath this, in pen and brown ink, "L. Camgiasio; C n L" ["n" crossed out].
Of the small group of drawings by Cambiaso at the Morgan,1 the present is certainly the most spectacular, not least for its monumental size. The composition is replicated on a sheet now at the Louvre that is identical in style, technique, and dimensions.2 The Louvre drawing, however, presents a few minor differences, such as the pose of the Virgin Mary, depicted in a three-quarters view and looking down at Christ, rather than up, as in the Morgan sheet.3 The large format and the detailed description of all the elements of the composition suggest that the design was probably made as a presentation drawing. Although no identical paintings by Cambiaso are known, it has been proposed that the Morgan sheet is related to the fresco in the apse at Santissima Annunziata di Portoria in Genoa, depicting Christ in Judgment with Angels, the Evangelists, and Prophets. The painting was commissioned in August 1563 by the Genoese nobleman Battista Grimaldi (ca. 1520–after 1599) and executed by Giovanni Battista Castello before 1567, when he left Genoa for Spain. According to the contract signed by Castello and Grimaldi, the decoration had to be completed within one year and, in the case that the work was found unsatisfactory, the patron could decide to have the frescoes repainted by another artist, also reclaiming “cost plus damages as determined by him, without outside arbitration.” It has thus been proposed by Jonathan Bober that the Morgan drawing (along with the variant now at the Louvre) was created by Cambiaso—who at the time was working for the Grimaldis on the decoration of the salone of their palazzo—either to assist his colleague or as a bid for the project in case Castello’s paintings did not find favor with the patron.4
Although this hypothesis has been accepted by a majority of critics, Federica Mancini has recently questioned it, suggesting instead that both the Morgan and the Louvre drawings represent Cambiaso’s designs for frescoes in the basilica of St. Lawrence at the Escorial, in Spain, where the artist moved in October 1583 at the request of Philip II. A drawing by Cambiaso in Dijon depicting a spectacular representation of the Celestial Glory has been rightly connected to the decoration of the choir’s vault in the Escorial.5 This sheet, however, differs notably from the Morgan’s, mainly in its compositional characters. Designed to be adapted to the Escorial church’s ceiling, the Dijon study is vertically oriented, while the composition of the Morgan drawing, as suggested by the semicircular line delimiting the image in the lower section of the sheet, was evidently made to fit the space of a church apse.
Excluding the possibility that the Morgan study was preparatory for the Escorial’s frescoes, it seems clear it should instead be linked to Castello’s paintings in the Santissima Annunziata, and its chronology is consequently grounded in the mid-1560s. It was at this time that Cambiaso started producing large scale modelli—like the Death of Cleopatra6 or the Conversion of St.Paul7—that recall the Morgan study both in technique and style. In these works, the artist manifested a pronounced interest in inventive perspectives that can be similarly observed in the Morgan sheet. Here the entire composition is indeed seen di sotto in su, and in the assembly of saints, some of the figures—those seen from the back on the far right, for example—intrude violently into the space of the spectator. Cambiaso’s fascination with perspectival studies derived not only from the close observation of the designs of Correggio, whom Cambiaso deeply admired, but also from the artist’s awareness of the contemporary debate on this topic by Lombard artists and theorists such as Carlo Urbino (see 2006.14:1-128 and 1999.12) and Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo.
- Christ Led Over a Bridge by a Group of Soldiers (inv. 1973.33); Woman (Sibyl?) Seated on Clouds with an Open Book (inv. 1993.291); Soldier on a Rearing Horse with Supine Man Beneath (inv. 1961.10); and Marriage of the Virgin (inv. 1993.366).
- Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. 9290. See Mancini 2017, no. 89.
- Moreover, the Louvre sheet presents the composition in its entirety. The Morgan drawing was partially trimmed at top, and some portions of the symbols of the Passion (the ladder, the cross, and the column), carried by the groups of flying putti around the figure of Christ, are missing.
- See Jonathan Bober in Austin and Genoa 2006–7, no. 53.
- Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, inv. Sup.00.63.6. See Dijon 2004, no. 63. A copy of this drawing produced by an artist of Cambiaso’s workshop is also known: see Genoa 1985–86, no. 41.
- Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, inv. 79.66.1.
- Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 13777 f.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 53.
Selected references: Suida Manning and Suida 1958, 191; Dayton and elsewhere 1962-63, no. 65; New Haven 1964, no. 30; New York 1964-65, no. 14; New York 1967-68, no. 10; Torriti 1970, 259-61; New York 1971, no. 171; Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 40; Bentini 1989, 128; Florence 1989, 27; Genoa 1990, under no. 78; New York 1996, no. 13; Austin and Genoa 2006-7, no. 53; Mancini 2017, under no. 89.
Italian Drawings from the Collection of János Scholz : a loan exhibition, April 23-June 7, 1964, Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven : Yale University Art Gallery, 1964, no. 30.
One Hundred Italian Drawings from the 14th to the 18th Centuries from the János Scholz Collection. New York : New School Art Center, 1971, no. 171.
Oberhuber, Konrad, and Dean Walker. Sixteenth Century Italian Drawings From the Collection of János Scholz. Washington, D.C. : National Gallery of Art ; New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1973, no. no. 40, repr. (includes full bibliography and exhibitions).
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Nineteenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1978-1980. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981, p. 181.
Watermark: none visible through lining.
Piatti-Lochis, Rosa, Countess, former owner.
Asta, Ferruccio, 1900-1952, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.