Daniele da Volterra

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Daniele da Volterra
approximately 1509-1566
Kneeling Apostle Seen From Behind
ca. 1548-1550
Black chalk, with smudging, on paper washed with gray.
12 7/8 x 9 7/8 inches (327 x 252 mm)
Purchased on the Edwin H. Herzog Fund and the Lois and Walter C. Baker Fund.

Inscribed on verso of old mount, in graphite, "21"; at lower right, "ILW/IR"; at upper left, in blue pen, "$150-"; on mount, under drawing, now effaced, "Andrea del Sarto"; under that, "Daniele ... da Volterra[?]".

John B. Skippe (1742-1811; Lugt S. 1529a-b), England; presumably his sister Penelope Skippe Martin; presumably through descent to Edward Holland Martin; presumably his sister Mrs. Rayner-Wood; by descent to her son, Edward Holland-Martin; his sale, Christie's, London, 20-21 November 1958, lot 83; Leo Schidlof (1886-1966), London; Christie's, 10 July 2001, lot 33; Flavia Ormond Fine Arts, Ltd., London.

Drawings by Daniele da Volterra are rare. He was one of the foremost collaborators and Roman followers of Michelangelo, whose drawings of David and Goliath (I, 32a-d) Daniele used for a painting now in the Louvre. Daniele is thought to have been a pupil of Sodoma and/or Peruzzi in Siena, and he later collaborated with Perino del Vaga before becoming an independent master in Rome. His Descent from the Cross of around 1545, painted for the Orsini chapel in the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, Rome, is arguably the greatest altarpiece of its generation. It was singled out by Nicolas Poussin in the next century as one of the three greatest paintings in Rome.

Not long after Daniele completed that work, he received the commission to paint the chapel of Lucrezia della Rovere Colonna (1485–1552), niece of Pope Julius II. Work may have begun in 1548, although it was still not complete at the time of the patron’s death in 1552. The centerpiece of the decoration is a frescoed Assumption of the Virgin on the altar wall of the chapel. According to Giorgio Vasari, Daniele executed all the drawings and cartoons for this project himself but for the frescoes was assisted by a number of artists, mostly from the circle of Perino del Vaga. These included Pellegrino Tibaldi and Marco Pino, who were assigned scenes on the vault and lateral chapel walls. Daniele reserved the altar wall for himself.1

As A. E. Popham first recognized at the time of the Skippe collection sale in 1958, the drawing now at the Morgan is a study for the Apostle at the lower right of the Assumption. A study by Daniele for the standing Apostle on the left, also in black chalk on lightly prepared paper and extremely close in style and technique to the Morgan sheet, is in the British Museum.2 Other probable autograph studies for this commission include a preparatory drawing in black chalk in the Louvre for the figure of the Virgin and two pricked cartoons, one in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem for the face of the Apostle bearing Michelangelo’s features and the other, for the head of another Apostle, in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.3 A compositional study relating to the entire fresco, possibly by Daniele, is in the Uffizi.4 The lower part of the fresco of the Assumption is damaged, but an anonymous engraving after it reveals an extremely close correspondence between the Morgan design and the original painted version.5

The studies for the della Rovere chapel reveal how Daniele adapted Michelangelo’s late carefully modulated chalk style to create large sculptural folds of drapery without a loss of detail in the facial features. Presumably, he stroked a blunt piece of chalk across the paper lightly and evenly, applying pressure only for the deep shadows in order to achieve smooth sfumato effects that perfectly communicate the weight and texture of the garments. Not only in monumental form, that is, but also in drawing technique, Daniele opted to follow Michelangelo’s model rather than that of his erstwhile master Perino or of the Mannerist artists otherwise working in midcentury Rome.



  1. Vasari 1996, 2:591–92; Vasari 1878–85, 3:578–79.
  2. British Museum, London, inv. 1946,0713.114. See Saarbrücken 1997, no. 44.
  3. Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. 1520 (Study for the Virgin); Teylers Museum, Haarlem, inv. A 21 (Cartoon for a Head in Assumption); Kupfer- stichkabinett, Berlin, KdZ 24802 (Study for an Apostle); see Florence 2003, nos. 25 and 27, and 110.
  4. Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 15091f. See Florence 2003, no. 23.
  5. Engraving, 320 × 232 mm, published by De Rossi, impression in Musei Civici del Castello Sforzesco, Milan, inv. spm6/70. See Florence 2003, 113, and Saarbrücken 1997, 160.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 109.
Selected references: Barolsky 1979, 86, pl. 58; Gere and Pouncey 1983, 64, under no. 76; Florence 2003, 108, under no. 26; Ciardi and Moreschini, 2004, 210.


Watermark: circle, with a verticle sword inside[?].
This drawing, dated to 1550-53, is a study for the apostle in the right foreground of the artist's fresco "The Assumption of the Virgin" in the della Rovere chapel in SS. Trinità dei Monti, Rome.

Associated names: 

Skippe, John B., 1742-1811, former owner.
Martin, Penelope Skippe, former owner.
Martin, Edward Holland, former owner.
Rayner-Wood, Mrs., former owner.
Holland-Martin, Edward, former owner.
Schidlof, Leo, 1886-1966, former owner.

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