Inscribed at lower left, in pen and brown ink, "Raphael Urbino"; at lower center, in pen and brown ink, "Corregio"; on mount, at lower right, below drawing, in pen and brown ink, "N ̊2"; at lower right, in graphite, "Ecole de Fil. Lippi"; on verso of mount, in pen and brown ink, with Richardson's pressmarks, "AA 48. / 9"; in pen and blue ink, "Annibale Carracci (cancelled)"; in graphite, "Raphael (cancelled) / Schy[...]in Filippo".
Before it was recognized as a work of the Florentine painter Filippo Lippi, this drawing was attributed—probably because of its original, though now partially compromised, quality of execution—to some of the leading Renaissance and early Baroque Italian artists: Raphael, Annibale Carracci, and, finally, Correggio, whose name is inscribed at the lower edge of the sheet. While that last inscription has been tentatively identified as by the celebrated connoisseur Sebastiano Resta, it only vaguely corresponds to Resta’s distinctive handwriting.1 Incorrectly identified as an Annunciation when it was sold in Stuttgart in 1949, this sheet represents the Evangelist Matthew seated in his studio and holding a tablet in his left hand while a winged angel, the saint’s attribute, points at the volume displayed on the reading stand in front of him. There is no evidence that ties the drawing to any of Lippi’s surviving compositions, but its round shape suggests that the sheet could have served as a preparatory study for a painting to be set into a polyptych frame. It appears plausible that three additional roundels depicting the other Evangelists—now lost or not yet identified—also existed.
Little remains today of Lippi’s draftsmanship, and a convincing stylistic comparison of this work with the few surviving drawings by the artist is challenging.2 Of this limited and extremely controversial group, Ruda recognized the present sheet as the artist’s earliest work on paper known today and dated it to the mid-1430s.3 Since Lippi’s other surviving drawings share only minor stylistic similarities with the Morgan sheet, its attribution to the master is based mainly on analogies with the artist’s paintings. The Annunciation at the Frick Collection, executed in the mid-1430s, seems to compare most closely to the design.4 Indeed, the treatment of the elaborate draperies and the proportions of the figures, as well as the consistency of the shadows that delicately model the oval faces in the painting, closely recall some of the distinguishing characteristics of the drawings. Moreover, the plunging perspective of the Evangelist’s studio and its vaulted ceiling appears almost identical in both the drawing and the painting.
- Moreover, it seems unlikely that Sebastiano Resta—a recognized expert and connoisseur of Correggio—could have mistaken the present drawing for an original by the Emilian artist. The fact that the Morgan sheet was in the collection of Jonathan Richardson, Sr., could have encouraged Degenhart and Schmitt to believe that it was previously owned by Resta; see Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010, 2: no. 351. According to Francesco Grisolia, however, the word does not appear in either Lansdowne manuscript 802 or Lansdowne manuscript 803, descriptive catalogues of drawings formerly belonging to Resta. I would like to thank Francesco Grisolia and Maria Rosa Pizzoni for discussing the provenance of the sheet and Resta’s handwriting with me.
- For an overview on Lippi’s graphic oeuvre, see Ruda 1993, 326–47.
- See Ruda 1993, no. D4.
- On the Annunciation, see Ruda 1993, no. 14.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 17.
Selected references: New York 1965-66, no. 1; Degenhart and Schmitt 1968-2010, 2: no. 351; Marchini 1975, 217; Fellows Report 18 1978, 273-74; Ruda 1993, 329-31 and no. D1; De Marchi et al. 1994, fig. 7.
Stampfle, Felice, and Jacob Bean. Drawings from New York collections. I: The Italian Renaissance. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1965, no. I, repr.
Bernhard Degenhart and Annegrit Schmitt, Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen 1300-1450, Berlin, 1968, Part I, vol. II, 432, no. 351, pl. 299b.
Giuseppe Marchini, Filippo Lippi, Milan, 1976, 217, letter C, fig. 176.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Eighteenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1975-1977. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1978, p. 273-274.
Resta, Sebastiano, former owner.
Richardson, Jonathan, 1665-1745, former owner.
Johann Georg, Prince of Saxony, 1869-1938, former owner.
Hugelshofer, Walter, 1899- former owner.
Manley, Otto, 1904-1989, former owner.