Inscribed at lower right, in gold, "Salvequi[Velasquez(?)] f. 1570"; to the right of this, in pen and brown ink, "44"; on verso of lining, at lower left, in pen and brown ink, "Ill II d / Andrea del Sarto (cancelled) 6 1/2 d (written above) / LeValasque f. 1570 / geb:[oren] Roussin(?) 1530 / gestorzan - 1591 / £Lf".
Andrea del Sarto regularly had his garzoni (young studio assistants) pose as models for the life studies from which he constructed his paintings. He was hardly the first Florentine artist to carry out such a practice, but Andrea’s influence over the younger artists in Florence was so strong that two generations of Florentine painters would work essentially in emulation of him. Similarly, although red chalk had been used in Florence before Andrea, most notably by Leonardo, Andrea was the first artist to make it his preferred medium, and, again, his impact would be enormous; drawings like the present work are the direct precedents for Pontormo’s drawings (see 1954.4), to cite one example.1
This sheet is a late drawing by Andrea, preparatory for the so-called Pala di Vallombrosa, an altarpiece construction consisting of four saints, two putti, and a predella that was made to surround a Virgin and child probably from the thirteenth century. Andrea’s altarpiece, now in the Uffizi, was made in 1528 for the Romitorio delle Celle at Vallombrosa. When it was removed, in the early nineteenth century, the original frame, one of the predella panels, and the old painting of the Virgin and child were lost.2
The Morgan drawing is a study for St. Michael, at the far left side of the altarpiece, although a few additional studies probably preceded this sheet. A brilliantly sketchy drawing in the Louvre is likely to be Andrea’s initial attempt to clarify the pose of the figure, for it seems to examine a few alternate positions for the twist of his body and the position of his right arm.3 A study in the Uffizi then shows the figure in the pose adopted for the painting, but with the long drapery wrapped over his left shoulder.4 This must represent an idea rejected in favor of that developed in the Morgan drawing, which has the drapery over the right shoulder. An additional drawing in the Uffizi shows a young man in the same pose as St. Michael, but in reverse; this drawing, as has been suggested before, is probably not for the altarpiece but rather for a portrait, albeit one where Andrea considered reusing a pose originally devised for the Pala di Vallombrosa.5
- On Andrea’s drawings, see the recent summary in Los Angeles and New York 2015–16.
- The so-called riquadratura, the creation of new panels to surround a revered older painting in an altarpiece, was a frequent phenomenon in Florence around 1500; see Filippini 1992 for further discussion.
- Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. 232 recto. See Los Angeles and New York 2015–16, no. 7, although the Morgan drawing is somewhat surprisingly omitted from the discussion there. Shearman 1965, 369–70, argued that the Louvre drawing was for Andrea’s Portrait of a Young Man in the National Gallery, London, a link that is less convincing.
- Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 288f. See Florence 1986–87, no. 83, where references to drawings for the other figures in the altarpiece are also included.
- Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffi Florence, inv. 326f. See Los Angeles and New York 2015–16, no. 8.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 24.
Selected references: Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 1:31; Di Pietro 1910, 83n1; Fraenckel 1935, 187; Berenson 1938, 1:293, 2: no. 141; Northampton 1941, no. 18; Mongan 1942, 93; Baltimore 1961, no. 34; Berenson 1961, 1:429, 2: no. 141; Freedberg 1963, 2:170; Monti 1965, 179n180; Shearman 1965, 2:273, 366-67; New York 1981, under no. 16; Petrioli Tofani 1985, under no. 38; Florence 1986-87, under no. 83; Paris 1986-87, under no. 57; Oberlin and elsewhere 1991-92, no. 45; New York and Chicago 1994, no. 19.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, I, no. 31, repr.
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.44, no. 16.
Watermark: possibly a snake or letter S; barely visible due to thickness of backing sheet.
Renaud, François, former owner.
Ploos van Amstel, Cornelis, 1726-1798, former owner.
Aylesford, Heneage Finch, Earl of, 1786-1859, 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.