National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 28, 1976

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Speculations on Two Drawings 
Attributed to  Giorgio Vasari

by David McTavish

Pages  1  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6    


1 First published in 1550, Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittort, scultori et architettori was brought out again in a vastly expanded edition in 1568. AlI references here are to Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, ed. by G. Milanesi (9 vols; Florence: 1878-1885). (Hereafter cited as Le Vite.)

2 Following the pioneering article by Otto Kurz, "Giorgio Vasari's 'Libro de' Disegni,' " Old Master Drawings, XII (1937), pp. 1-15, 32-44, Vasari's collection of drawings has now been exhaustively studied by Licia Ragghianti Collobi, Il Libro de' Disegni del Vasari (2 vols; Florence: Valecchi, 1974).

3 See Catherine Monbeig-Goguel, hlventaire Général des dessins italiens, I, Vasari et son temps (Paris: Louvre, 1972), pp. 147 If.

4 No. 9841. A. E. Popham and K. M. Fenwick, European Drawings in the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965), p. 18, cat. no. 24. A third drawing attributed to Vasari, a well-known study for the Sala di Cosimo I in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, also belongs to the National Gallery (ibid., cat. no. 23, repr.).

5 Ibid., cat. no. 24.

6 No. 08.227.10. Attributed to Federico Zuccaro. The unconvincing attribution to Federico Zuccaro has already been rejected by James Byam Shaw, Drawings by Old Masters at Christ Church, Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), no.163.

7 Collection Dott. Ing. Giacomo Bargellesi, Milan. On the verso of the drawing there is a sketch of a horse.

8 Acts 12:6ff. St Peter is said to have been sleeping between two soldiers; yet only one appears in the drawings under discussion (with the exception of the Milan drawing), and even he is located outside St Peter's prison cell.

9 Inv. 0147. Byam Shaw has classified the drawing as "after Vasari," (op. cit., no.163). The most notable difference between the drawing at Christ Church and the one in New York involves the figure of St Peter. In the Christ Church drawing St Peter rests his head on his hand, whereas in the New York drawing both his hands appear to be held in his lap. And as is the case with the drawing in Ottawa, the drawing at Christ Church Shows a more intimate relationship between St Peter and the angel than does the New York sheet.

10 Byam Shaw, loc. cit., no. 163.

11 Details that specifically suggest the drawings are copies include the summary treatment of the angel's wing at the extreme right of the Christ Church drawing, and the fact that in the Ottawa drawing the angel's left wing does not extend below the head at all.

12 For Vasari's autobiography see Le Vite, vol. VII, pp. 649-724; for his record book, his ricordanze, see Karl Frey, Der literarische Nachlass Giorgio Vasari (Munich, 1930), vol. II, pp. 847-882, or Il Libro delle Ricordanze di Giorgio Vasari, ed. by Alessandro del Vita (Rome, 1938). There is one exception: in an addendum to Vasari's ricordanze, made by his nephew Marcantonio di Ser Pietro Vasari, there is mention of "una tavola nelle monache di San Benedetto [in Perugia] entrovi la storia di San Piero in prigione, quale gli feciono fare i monaci neri di d(etto) ordine"; for which see Frey, op. cit., vol. II, p. 884, and del Vita, op. cit., p. 108. But the entry is dated 1568, a time surely much too late for the style of the Ottawa and Christ Church drawings. The painting is listed as lost by Paola BaroCchi, "Complementi al Vasari Pittore," Atti e Memorie dell' Accademia Toscana di Scienze e Lettere, XXVIII, ser. XIV (1963-1964), p. 307.

13 It is always possible that the four drawings are after another drawing and not a painting; but, since the technique of the four drawings is so different, such a proposal seems highly unlikely. An exception might be made in the case of the drawing in Milan, where the design departs most conspicuously from the other examples.

14 Le Vite, vol. VII, pp. 662-663.

15 Ibid., p. 654. For a list of some of Vasari's drawings after such artists as Michelangelo and Raphael, see Monbeig-Goguel, op. cit., p. 209.

16 Le Vite, vol. v, p. 146. Vasari claims that Polidoro painted these frescoes in collaboration with the still mysterious Maturino: "Lavorarono la facciata di San Pietro in Vincola, e le storie di San Pietro in quella con Projèti grandi." For the frescoes of prophets, see Rolf Kultzen, "Die Malereien Polidoros an der Fassade von San Pietro in Vincoli," in Pestschrift Ulrich Middeldorf (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1968), pp. 263-268; and for the façade in general, see Alessandro Marabottini, Polidoro da Caravaggio (Rome, 1969), vol. I, p. 353.

17 It is not known precisely how the frescoes were arranged on the façade of the church, but it is possible that the two episodes concerning St Peter in prison were separated by an opening. Martin van Heemskerck, who in fact shows a minute depiction of the façade in his view of Rome from the Capitol (repr. in C. Huelsen and H. Egger, Die romischen Skizzenbücher von Marten van Heemskerk [Berlin, 1913- 1916], vol. II, pl. 121), seems to have also known the figures of St Peter and the angel, for they reappear in his design of The Apostles delivered from Prison by the Angel, engraved by Ph. Galle in 1575.

18 See the comments to this effect made in 1628 by Giulio Mancini, Considerazioni sulla pittura, ed. by A. Marucchi and L. Salemo (Rome, 1957), vol. I, p. 311.

19 Cf. Kultzen, op. cit., p. 267, "Die...Petrusgeschichten an der Fassade von S. Pietro in Vincoli...sind uns übrigens durch keinerlei Nachbildungen bezeugt." Marabottini, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 122, 301, 353, vol. II, pl. CXXVII, I, associates a drawing in the Louvre (Inv. 6071) showing the Crucifixion of St Peter with this façade. But the attribution of this drawing to Polidoro is doubted by R. Kultzen in his review of Marabottini's monograph (Art Bulletin, LV [1973[, pl 638); and Mme Françoise Viatte, in an annotation on the drawing's mount, has convincingly attributed the sheet to Belisario Corenzio.

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