Lot 56
  • 56

Agostino Carracci

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Agostino Carracci
  • saint jerome
  • Pen and brown ink and wash;
    bears pencil attribution to Guercino twice on the old backing sheet: erased on the recto and on the verso 


Mary Brandegee (L.1860c)


Jonathan Unglaub, 'A New Drawing for the Engraving of St. Jerome by Agostino Carracci', Master Drawings, vol. XLV, no. 2 (2007), pp. 211, 222, p. 213, reproduced fig. 3 

Catalogue Note

This newly discovered study first published in 2007 (see Literature), is one of a series made by Agostino in preparation for his best known and important engraving, St Jerome (fig. 1).  The numerous drawings executed for this project indicate how carefully Agostino worked out his compositions before reaching a final solution.  Dated circa 1602, the print is thought to be Agostino's last, as it was left unfinished at the time of his death and was later completed by Francesco Brizio at the instigation of his master, Lodovico Carracci.  The print is known in four states, the first of which shows Agostino's brief indications with the burin in the areas which were not worked up before his death.  In comparison to the most complete extant compositional study, the engraving, albeit unfinished, is far more elaborate, indicating that the artist may have been happy to work out the details of the composition with the burin.1

Several other preparatory drawings are known, which show the artist experimenting with various ideas.  In the two sheets at the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt and the Royal Library, Windsor, Agostino experiments with both the position of the figure and the setting of the composition,2 so that the saint either kneels before an altar in contemplation of the crucifix, or rests his head upon his hand as he studies at his desk.  Both these motifs are combined in the present sheet and in the one formerly in the Horvitz collection.Another drawing, formerly in the Avnet collection, places the saint in an outdoor setting, kneeling before a rock, as in the most complete compositional drawing in the Albertina and the print itself.A double-sided sheet, also in the Horvitz collection, adopts a similar solution, adding a putto supporting the crucifix that the saint contemplates.

In two further drawings at Windsor, Agostino studies alternative positions for St. Jerome's lion, although the very sketchy lion that sleeps by the saint's feet in the present drawing is closer to the final print.6  In terms of the position of St. Jerome, the studies that are closest to the present sheet are the one formerly in the Horvitz collection and the one in the Département des Arts Graphiques, in the Louvre. The present study appears to have been drawn first, as both figure and setting are more abbreviated and the use of the pen more fluent and quick than in the sheet formerly in the Horvitz collection, while the one in the Louvre, the most elaborate of the three, would appear to have been executed last. 

Agostino has also added a painterly touch to the present drawing in the use of wash quickly and effectively applied to the side of the desk where the saint is resting his left arm while reading.

1. D. DeGrazia Bohlin, Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1979, no. 213, pp. 346-351

2. Ibid., p. 350, figs. 213a - 213c

3. Sale, New York, Sotheby's, The Jeffrey E. Horvitz Collection of Italian Drawings, 23 January 2008, lot 54, reproduced

4. DeGrazia Bohlin, op.cit., figs. 213d-213g

5. Purchased London, Phillips, 9 July 2001, lot 143, reproduced, and now on loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

6. DeGrazia Bohlin, op.cit., figs 213e-213f

7. J. Unglaub, op.cit., p. 217, reproduced fig. 9