The drawing, exhibited for the first time in the recent Late Raphael exhibition, is immensely interesting in its handling and technique. Drawn in black chalk, it already stands apart from the majority of Giulio’s earlier compositional studies, which predominantly employ red chalk. As Tom Henry and Paul Joannides describe in the exhibition catalogue entry for the drawing, Giulio generally reserved black chalk for use in his cartoons, and in fact they liken the present work to a cartoon, as the figures are the same size as those in the painting.2 Though certainly similar in some ways to a cartoon, the drawing is, however, also very much a working drawing, as is clear from the fact that Giulio has used the stylus throughout to define the overall layout of his composition. He did not, though, adhere strictly to the original stylus indentations, making various changes when working his study up in black chalk: the position of the Madonna’s bended knee, just under the Christ Child’s extended foot, has clearly been altered, and changes can also be seen in the Virgin’s hanging garment, to the right of the composition. There are also a number of other notable differences between the study and the final painting in terms of the head-dress and veil, the background, and aspects of the Virgin’s garment, Giulio’s black chalk drawing purely focusing on the Holy figures and their placement.
It is impossible not to mention in this context Giulio’s highly influential teacher, Raphael, with whom he worked so closely, collaborating on numerous projects. The Hertz Madonna, painted in 1516-17, is distinctively by Giulio’s hand, but clearly demonstrates a Raphaelesque undertone. Henry and Joannides postulate that Giulio’s starting point for this intimate work was probably a lost sketch by Raphael from his late Florentine period.3 They emphasize, however, that the identifiable characteristics of Giulio’s style are also evident, such as in the way he has changed the proportions typical of Raphael’s Holy figures by extending the legs of the Virgin below the knees. The domestic interior and the frontal positioning of the Madonna and Child would also be unusual in a depiction of the Virgin and Christ Child by Raphael.
All the same, the painting was previously attributed to Raphael by Oberhuber and Gnann, but this cannot, as Henry and Joannides have described, be sustained. In addition to the overall approach to composition, they highlight certain features such as the hinging of the Child’s right leg, which is rather unconvincing, just as it is in Giulio’s ‘Madonninna’,4 acknowledging that Giulio often struggled with anatomy. They also point out the rounded stomach of the Christ Child, which is not seen in works by Raphael.5
From Henry and Joannides’ extensive cataloguing of the Hertz Madonna, one can get a better understanding of this early black chalk study. The painting’s somewhat solid, sculptural style can be explained by Giulio’s very young age at the time, when he is clearly still experimenting and developing as an artist. This stylistic naïvety is recognised by Sylvia Ferino-Pagden who, in her review of the Late Raphael exhibition in the Burlington magazine, debates the attribution of the present drawing to Giulio, but does recognise the argument that whatever weaknesses it may demonstrate could reflect the fact that the artist would still only have been in his teens, his style not yet fully developed.6
Though there are no other surviving early drawings by Giulio with which the present Madonna and Child can meaningfully be compared, and the drawing is therefore difficult to integrate fully into his corpus of work, it unquestionably provides a fascinating insight into the working methods of Giulio as a young man and artist, and the relationship between Master and pupil. But ultimately, the drawing’s significance lies in the fact that it is a rare and early study for one of Giulio’s more intimate and direct portrayals of The Virgin and Child.
1. The Late Raphael, exhib. cat., Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, and Paris, Musée du Louvre, 2012-13, cat. no. 63, reproduced
2. Ibid., p. 239, under cat. nos. 63 and 64
3. Ibid., p. 237 under cat. nos. 63 and 64
4. Ibid., pp. 233-236, cat. 61, reproduced
6. Ferino-Pagden, loc. cit.
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