Lot 232
  • 232

Workshop of Vittore Carpaccio, circa 1500

30,000 - 40,000 GBP
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  • Study for a Madonna, her hands clasped in prayer
  • Pen and brown ink and wash over black chalk, pricked for transfer; on two joined sheets of paper


With Martyn Gregory and Rafael Vals, London, from whom purchased, December 1968


Newcastle, 1974, no. 1, reproduced pl. I (as North Italian School, c. 1500-1515);
London, 1975, no. 1 (as North Italian School, c. 1500-1515 );
Newcastle, 1982, no. 1 (as North Italian School, c. 1500-1515)


A third strip less than a centimeter added to the right edge. Some thin losses around the lines of the face of the Madonna and a loss on the right eye. The original joint of the two paper visible. The paper has several folds and is buckled and wrinkled in several places . Soiling at the top left corner and edge. Brown and grey stains along the left section of the drawing. Some light stains and surface dirt to the right side of the drawing. The drawing has been reinforced from the verso with small modern pieces of paper
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A rare example of a working drawing datable to circa 1500 and a 'modelletto' pricked for transfer, this, the earliest Italian drawing in the Holland collection, is stylistically very close to the Venetian master Vittore Carpaccio (?1460/66-1525/6).  No other drawing pricked for transfer seems to have survived among the known corpus of Carpaccio's works on paper or from his workshop, and this is therefore an important addition to the knowledge of this important master and his bottega.   We are, however, aware from technical examination of some of his painted works that Carpaccio and his workshop did make use of the technique of the spolvero1, in replicating, as in all Renaissance workshops, the same figures in multiple paintings, through the use of cartoons.

The broken lines which outline the stylized figure of the Madonna with her clasped hands are in contrast with the richer use of the point of the brush and light brown-grey wash, which with its parallel strokes well defines the light and shadow, enhancing the volume and sculptural quality of the Madonna's heavy mantle.  The method in which both the pen and ink and the wash are here employed is close to Carpaccio's own use of these media, and the drawing can be compared in technique with Carpaccio's Vision of St. Augustine, an extraordinary sheet, now in the British Museum. As Hugo Chapman noted in his recent exhibition catalogue entry for the British Museum drawing: 'the lack of detail in the delineation of the figure had led scholars to speculate that Carpaccio was awaiting instruction on how to portray a patron of the scuola in the guise of Augustine...'.3  The essential and sparing use of the pen and ink in defining the figures in their geometric forms is very characteristic of Carpaccio's draughtsmanship, and as in the present drawing, the figure is then built up with the point of the brush and wash.  Another comparable work is the Funeral of St. Jerome, in the University Library, Uppsala.4  

The Holland drawing seems to represent a sorrowing Virgin, but it is none the less revealing to compare it with the figure of St. Anne, standing behind St. Joachim in Carpaccio's Presentation of the Virgin, painted in 1504 and now in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.5  Although the figure in the painting is not visible in its entirety, the inclination of the head, the forms of the wimple and veil, and the fall of drapery in the mantle are all so close to the present drawing that if it were not for the difference in size, it would be tempting to suggest a direct connection between the two figures.

1.  'Spolvero' is an Italian term signifying the traces of powdered black chalk left by the process of dusting the chalk through the pricked outline of a cartoon.  For more detailed information on use of the spolvero in Carpaccio's painted works see: G. Poldi, 'La tecnica pittorica e i problemi conservativi del polittico di Pozzale, con una nota sul disegno sottostante in Vittore Carpaccio,' in G. Fossaluzza, Vittore Carpaccio a Pozzale di Cadore 1519. Le ultime opere per Venezia, Istria e Cadore, Zero Branco (Treviso) 2012, pp. 249-254
2.  Inv no. 1934,1208.1
3.  Fra Angelico to Leonardo, Italian Renaissance Drawings, exhib. cat., London, British Museum, and Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, 2010-2012, p. 266, no. 80, reproduced
4.  P. Humphrey, Carpaccio, London 2005, p. 89, no. 23, reproduced 
5.  Ibid., p. 104-105, reproduced