Inscribed by the artist, at upper center, in pen and brown ink: "R"; at lower left, in pen and brown ink: "R".
Although much studied, this drawing remains problematic. It appears to be the left half of a larger sheet of paper, which would have included the missing portion of the crowned figure at the upper right corner and perhaps also the two other Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Mark.1
The draftsman remains unknown, but the meticulous pen work reveals the hand of an accomplished master. The artist employed cross-hatching to define with volume the figures on paper. In precise detail, the two Evangelists are depicted in the act of writing: St. Luke’s scroll is minutely inscribed with the first verse of his Gospel and, with similar accuracy, the artist drew a few thin parallel lines to make visible the air blown by St. John to dry his pen. The iconography of the Evangelist in the act of blowing on his pen was not uncommon at the time and can be found in fresco cycles and paintings both in northern and central Italy, although the portrayal of St. John as seen from behind his right shoulder is quite unusual.2
The difficulty in establishing not only a secure attribution but even a more general geographical context for this sheet owes largely to the poor and uneven survival rate of Italian drawings from the early decades of the fifteenth century. This paucity undermines the possibility of creating coherent groups of works that can be definitively assigned to specific hands.3 Except for very rare instances, such as, for example, draw- ings by Stefano da Verona (see 1977.44) or Parri Spinelli (see I, 1a), the majority of drawings from this early period are still anonymous and the subject of scholarly debate. It is not surprising that the two geographical areas to which the Morgan sheet has been most often connected—Siena and Verona—are those from which larger numbers of Italian drawings from around 1400 survive. The graphic arts of other Italian schools of the period are far less well-known.
The drawing was first published by Charles Fairfax Murray as a work by the Sienese Martino di Barolomeo, but in 1947 Hans Tietze suggested that it was instead by an artist of the Veronese school “belonging to the generation between Avanzo and the ‘soft style’ rep- resented by Stefano da Zevio.”4 Spinello Aretino, Martino da Verona, and Masolino da Panicale have all been suggested as possible authors of the drawing.5 Several scholars have argued for a stylistic affinity between the Morgan sheet and a drawing of Two Men in Armor, now divided into two separate fragments, in the Robert Lehman Col- lection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.6 The latter drawing has been recently ascribed by Andrea De Marchi to Arcangelo di Cola da Camerino, an artist active between Florence and the Marche in the first decades of the fifteenth century.7 De Marchi has also, more recently, suggested a tentative attribution to the same artist for the Morgan sheet.8 Yet the personality of Arcangelo di Cola has been reconstructed only quite recently, and none of his painted works can be connected directly with the Morgan drawing, so the attribution must still be treated with some reserve.
Tietze has been the only scholar to address the question of the function of this drawing. He described it as a work “between a copy from an existing work and a design for a planned work,” pointing to the fact that the figures of the Evangelists are typical of the period and could be employed by the artist repeatedly in different painted projects.9 The drawing, in other words, relates to the model book tradition, as do so many other early examples of Italian draftsmanship. —GD
- The partial figure at the upper right, crowned and in the benediction gesture, has been variously interpreted as God the Father, a king of the Old Testament, or a saint.
- Giotto, for example, painted St. John blowing on his pen in the Arena Chapel in Padua, while Spinello Aretino portrayed St. Mark in the same attitude in Siena in the Palazzo Comunale. Similarly, a drawing in the Louvre by Pisanello or his circle presents the figure of a seated Apostle blowing on his pen (inv. 753 dr).
- On this topic, see the introductory essay of London and Florence 2010–11, 15–75.
- Tietze 1947, no. 2.
- Ragghianti Collobi 1974, 30, and Bellosi in Florence 1978, xx.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. 1975.403 and 1975.1.404. See Bellosi in Flor- ence 1978, xx, and Forlani Tempesti 1991, 165.
- De Marchi 1988–89, 190–99.
- De Marchi 2002, 182.
- Tietze 1947, no. 2.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 3.
Selected references: London 1904, no. 76; Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 1: no.2; Weitenkampf 1917, 79; Weitenkampf 1919, 5; Toronto 1926, no. 26; Tietze 1947, no. 2; Degenhart and Schmitt 1968-2010, 1: no. 110; Seymour 1968, 1:104n23; Zucker 1973, 252; Ragghianti Collobi 1974, 1:39; Florence 1978, xx; Sutton 1979, 295; De Marchi 1988-89, 198n22; Forlani Tempesti 1991, 165; De Marchi 2002, 182; Weppelmann 2003, 11n5; Weppelmann 2003a, 321; Weppelmann 2011, 332.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, I, 2.
Frank Weitenkampf, Drawings from the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection. Lent for Exhibition by Mr. John Pierpont Morgan (reprinted from New York Public Library Bulletin, January 1919), New York Public Library, 1 February- 30 April 1919.
Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 1927, Vol. XXII, No. 5, p. 137
Watermark: none visible through lining.
Formerly Sienese School, 15th century.
Formerly Veronese School.
Formerly attributed to Martino di Bartolomeo.
Bartolomeo di Martino, active 14th century-15th century, Formerly attributed to.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.