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

Bulletin Annuel 3, 1979-1980

Annual Index
Author & Subject

A Re-Examination of the "Raphael" 
drawing in the National Gallery of Canada

by Sylvia Ferino

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4   

There is one characteristic of the Ottawa drawing which has not been mentioned so far. The drawing has been cut down on all four sides to the contours of the figure. On the bottom and to the right of the image it has even been amputated, as if to hide the fact that the figure was kneeling; and indeed all previous historians have taken it to be a standing figure. (24)

Unless we assume that the cutting was done as a con- sequence of severe damage to all four sides of the image, it seems probable that the angel was once part of a copy of a larger portion of the Foligno Baptism, as it appears in the Venice (fig. 4), Madrid, and New York sheets. In this context it is interesting to note that the Ottawa image corresponds in height and width with the Venice and the New York images, and again with the same motif in the painting in the Yale University Gallery (fig. 10). (25) This, incidentally, demonstrates that when motifs were handed down, they were frequently copied in the same size, most commonly by tracing.

The presence of Resta's inventory number (g. 108) on the lower edge of the Ottawa drawing makes it clear that it was cut down before he numbered it. As Professor K. Oberhuber has pointed out to me, it was common practice among dealers and collectors in the seventeenth century to cut up drawings - above all the larger sheets with several figures and motifs - so that each section would contain only one motif. In this way, drawings were "multiplied" and the dealer's profit considerably increased. It is most probable that the Ottawa drawing has suffered a similar fate and that the figure was on this occasion amputated to the point of obscuring the kneeling pose.

The unusual technical procedure employed in the drawing remains, however, a puzzle. While in the underdrawing of the Fogg Museum a lighter, easily erasable material precedes the application of the more durable metal-point, an even more durable, unerasable application of ink precedes the use of metal-point in the Ottawa drawing. The common order from fragile, easily perishable materials to more durable ones, a method which made it possible for artists to correct their ideas in the working process, has been inverted. A close look under the magnifying glass reveals that even the wings were slightly traced through from underneath, but emphasized no further. Unless we consider the drawing to be a pure exercise in various techniques carried out by one of Perugino's workshop associates - a theory which is not wholly convincing since such exercises were usually linked more closely to practical purposes - we must assume that the explanation is to be found in the now missing parts of the once larger drawing, of which the Ottawa youth represents only a fragment. It may be that the artist considered the copy of the standing angel to be unsatisfactory, and therefore covered the whole sheet and traced the figures over again, metal-point being the medium most commonly used on such prepared surfaces. But all this has to remain pure conjecture until further sections of the hypothetical larger drawing come to light.

The Ottawa drawing of a "Standing Saint," once attributed to Raphael, should now, perhaps, be re-labelled a "Kneeling Angel" "from the workshop of Perugino."

Next PageNotes

1  |  2  |  3  |  4

Top of this page

Home | Français | Introduction | History
Annual Index | Author & Subject | Credits | Contact

This digital collection was produced under contract to Canada's Digital Collections program, Industry Canada.

"Digital Collections Program, Copyright © National Gallery of Canada 2001"