Download image: 
active 16th century
Holy Family
ca. 1525-1535
Black and white chalk on two sheets of laid paper joined horizontally at center; pricked for transfer.
34 3/8 x 25 5/8 inches (873 x 651 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
II, 1
Giuseppe Appiani (1740-1812), Milan, by 1811; 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.

A Giampietrino is mentioned in Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus as one of the master’s pupils, but the attribution to him of a group of works seemingly by one hand is conjectural, for none are signed. Of these, furthermore, only one is dated, the Adoration of the Shepherds in San Marino, Pavia, from 1521. This date contradicts the long-held tradition that Giampietrino was the Pietro Rizzo Milanesi identified by Lomazzo,1 for that painter seems to have been active in the 1480s and 1490s, but new archival research has linked the group of paintings traditionally given to Giampietrino to a different painter, Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, who was active until 1540.2 Giampietrino thus seems to figure in the later generation of Leonardo’s followers. Like artists such as Bernardino Luini, he continued to make use of Leonardo’s inventions long after Leonardo left Milan in 1513, probably working from drawings left behind by the master. Furio Rinaldi has recently suggested a date for the Morgan cartoon in the later 1520s or 1530s, noting that the figures have a massive quality absent in the 1521 painting but found in other works presumed from later in Giampietrino’s career.3

Composed on the full scale of an easel painting, the present work is drawn on two large sheets of paper that have been glued together. The outlines have been pricked for transfer. Although a cartoon would hardly be necessary for a panel painting of this size—in contrast to a fresco, where the cartoon facilitates the necessarily fast pace of work on wet plaster—study of Giampietrino’s paintings with infrared reflectography has revealed that he did often use cartoons, for the panels show traces of the spolvero technique of transferring the design by pouncing charcoal through the pricked outlines.4 Cartoons enabled the easy replication of successful compositions, and many of Giampietrino’s works do survive in multiple versions. Milanese artists like Giampietrino, however, may have been following Leonardo’s example in creating full-size drawings that were, regardless of any preparatory function, autonomous works in themselves. The key model was Leonardo’s Virgin and Child with St. Anne (National Gallery, London, inv. NG6337). Leonardo’s huge drawing is generally described as a cartoon, but it is not pricked or incised for transfer, and his painting of the subject differs in composition. As such, the drawing is perhaps best understood as a finished work in its own right. Whatever its origin, the work remained in Milan and served as inspiration for the following generation. Indeed, the twisting Christ child in Giampietrino’s drawing, while not directly copied from Leonardo, derives from Leonardo’s model; one can almost imagine Giampietrino’s infant as Leonardo’s Christ if seen from behind.5

The pricked outlines of Giampietrino’s drawing would seem to suggest that the work was used to produce a painting, but no corresponding work is known, and, furthermore, the pricked outline of the Virgin’s head does not follow the drawing but rather delineates a more upright position with a frontally facing Virgin. It should also be noted that the infant Christ raises his left hand to bless Joseph where one would normally expect the right. It must thus be proposed that the pricked outlines were not used to transfer this drawing to a painting but instead that they were used to transfer a previous drawing to this sheet: if the original composition were in the reverse orientation (cartoons easily being flipped to reverse a figure), that would explain Christ’s left-handedness. Finally, if a previous drawing served not to produce a painting but rather a second drawing, this would be further evidence of a taste for pseudo-cartoon drawings, sometimes identified as ben finiti cartoni, among artists and collectors in Lombardy.6



  1. Lomazzo 1584, 695.
  2. For a summary of the biographical information about Giampietrino, see Keith and Roy 1996, 5; Rinaldi 2013a, 213n1, gives a full account of the relevant bibliography.
  3. Rinaldi 2013a, 221.
  4. See Keith and Roy 1996, 6–8.
  5. A similarly contorted child is found in Giampi- etrino’s Leda and Her Children in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel, another work based on one of Leonardo’s inventions.
  6. For this phenomenon, see also the drawing by Lanino (No. 51). For the ben finito cartone, see Bambach 1999, especially chapters 7 and 8.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 49.
Selected references: Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 2: no. 1; Los Angeles 1949, no. 93; Bloomington and elsewhere 1958, no. 21; Bacall 1968, no. 25; Lawrence 1986, no. 6; Milan 1987-88, 17; Pedretti and Trutty-Coohill 1993, no. 42; Geddo 1994-95, 67; Marani 1996, 26:441; New York 2002-3, 177; Scrase 2011, no. 263; Rinaldi 2013a, 218-21.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, II, 1 and introduction, repr.


Watermark: none visible through lining.

Associated names: 

Appiani, Giuseppe, 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.

Artist page: