Lot 6
  • 6

Benedetto Carpaccio

8,000 - 12,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Benedetto Carpaccio
  • The trial of Moses
  • Pen and brown ink and grey-brown wash;
    bears numbering on pencil: 3 and on the mount in pen and ink: N. 88.


With Parsons & Sons, London (L.2881),
from whom purchased on 13 August 1910;
sale, London, Christie's, Master Drawings from the Oppé Collection, 5 December 2006, lot 1


London, Royal Academy, The Paul Oppé Collection, 1958, no. 358 (as Michele da Verona);
Venice, Fondazione Cini, Disegni veneti di collezioni inglesi, 1980, p. 28, no. 9, reproduced fig. 9 (as Attributed to Benedetto Carpaccio; entry by Julien Stock)


T. Borenius, 'Michele da Verona', The Burlington Magazine, XXXIX, no. 220, 1921, p. 4 (as Michele da Verona), reproduced pl. A


Glued at the top, on the early 20th century mount. The paper has yellowed and has traces of old foxing scattered around. A slight crease from the mid right margin to the bottom one. The paper is slightly buckled. An old tear to the right margin at the level of the last figure's head, of about 3 cm, this tear has been repaired on the verso with a strip of white paper. A similar piece of paper is also glued on the verso along the margin at the bottom of the drawing.
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Catalogue Note

This rare compositional study representing The trial of Moses was first attributed to Benedetto Carpaccio by James Byam Shaw, and subsequently exhibited as ‘Attributed to Benedetto Carpaccio’ at the Cini Foundation in Venice, in 1980.  Benedetto, the son of Vittore Carpaccio and most likely his main assistant, is first documented in Venice in 1530. His artistic personality is not well known, but the present sheet can be associated stylistically with a few others that have been given to the artist, all characterized by a very similar manner of drawing, highly reminiscent of Vittore Carpaccio’s own style.1 These sheets are generally, like this one, compositional studies.  Benedetto seems to have been very able in producing these finished drawings, which must have been closely inspired by his father's painted work. 

Other comparable drawings include: Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Roch (circa 1530-1545) in The Art Institute of Chicago;2 Virgin and Child with Saints John the Baptist and George, a double sided sheet in the Koenigs Collection at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam;3 and the composite study on the verso of The Virgin between the Baptist and St. Roch, a double sided sheet in the Uffizi.4  These drawings all share accomplished compositions, and are generally characterized by the same staccato lines, and an elegant and economic way of rendering draperies and defining forms, although there is, in comparison with Vittore Carpaccio’s own drawings, some lack of plasticity and clarity in the definition of volumes.

A drawing that has previously been considered central to our understanding of Benedetto’s style is The Coronation of the Virgin, a finished drawing now in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen,5 which is related to the artist’s signed and dated altarpiece of 1537, executed for the Church known as La Rotonda in Capodistria, and now in the Civico Museo Sartorio, Trieste.6  The Copenhagen drawing has generally been considered to be a preparatory study for this altarpiece, but Chris Fisher has kindly informed us that he believes it is probably a modello, made for a patron in the Carpaccio workshop around 1515-1520, possibly on the basis of a sketch by Vittore, and only subsequently used by Benedetto for the altarpiece now in Trieste.  Moreover the painting only repeats the upper half of the composition of the drawing.  Such repetition of material available in the bottega, either painted or drawn, must, however, have been totally standard practice. Stylistically, the present sheet is rather different from the one in Copenhagen, although it is worth noting that, as is evident from the double-sided sheet in the Uffizi, coexistent stylistic differences can easily be the result of different levels of finish.  

The scene represented here, an obscure episode from the life of Moses, follows the moment when the young Moses, having been adopted as an infant by Pharaoh’s daughter, has Pharaoh’s crown jokingly placed on his head, but throws it on the floor and stamps on it.  This was taken as an inauspicious sign, indicating that Moses would one day seek to overthrow Pharaoh.  To test his motives, the child was offered two dishes, one containing hot coals and the other cherries (or in some versions of the story, agate).  If he had reached for the cherries, it had been decided that he would be killed, but guided by the Archangel Gabriel, he reached instead for the coal and burnt his hand and tongue, thereby proving his innocence.

1. A first attempt to define a corpus of drawings by Benedetto was made by Terisio Pignatti in his review of Jan Lauts’ monograph on Carpaccio’s paintings and drawings, in Master Drawings, vol. I, no. 4, 1963, pp. 51-52

2. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, inv. no. 1922-1042; S. Folds McCullagh and L. Giles, Italian Drawings before 1600 in the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago 1997, pp. 73-74, no. 90, reproduced fig. 90

3. Rotterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, inv. no. I 334; H. Tietze and E. Tietze Conrat, The Drawings of the Venetian Painters, New York 1970, vol. I, p. 158, no. 646 (as School of Carpaccio and as still in Haarlem, as before its transfer to Rotterdam in 1935), reproduced vol. II, pl. XXIV, fig. 646

4. Florence, Uffizi, inv. no. 1767 F

5. Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, inv. no. GB 8412; to be published in Autumn 2016 in the forthcoming catalogue by Chris Fisher: Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings, Statens Museum for Kunst. Venetian Drawings, no. 2 (as Workshop of Vittore Carpaccio)

6. For an image see Carpaccio, Vittore e Benedetto da Venezia all'Istria, exhib. cat., Conegliano, Palazzo Sarcinelli, 2015, p. 146, cat. 14, reproduced p. 108