Though Maratti’s reputation in late 17th Century Rome was unrivalled, he was well aware of the rich source of artistic inspiration that his most celebrated forebears could provide for his own work, notably Raphael and the Carracci, and was known to diligently study their paintings, frescoes and prints. This led to the 17th century ‘biographer of the artists’, Giovanni Pietro Bellori, describing Maratti as one of the artistic heirs to Raphael, and a key exponent and perpetuator of the classical tradition in Roman art. Indeed, the influence that Maratti drew from artists of previous generations is clearly identifiable in the present drawing, which in its key compositional elements, appears to be derived from an engraving of the same subject (fig.1) by Antonio Carracci, the son of Agostino.
Though the present work is yet to be securely connected to a surviving painting or decorative project, recent research has led to the reemergence of a fascinating and currently anonymous, connected drawing, in the collection of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid (fig.2), which was kindly brought to our attention by Dario Beccarini. The San Fernando sheet, which is executed in pen and brown ink over black chalk, shares an almost identical composition to our drawing, with the obvious exception being the absence of the kneeling attendant on the left hand side of the work. The drawing originally entered the Spanish Royal Collection in 1775 when it was acquired, alongside numerous drawings by Maratti, from Rosalía O'Moore, the widow of Andrea Procaccini, himself a prominent member of Maratti’s studio. The attribution of the San Fernando drawing must, for the time being, remain in limbo; however it is clearly highly Marattesque in manner and must either be by the hand of the master, or by a talented member of his studio, with intimate knowledge of the present drawing.
Whilst the attribution of the San Fernando drawing appears to have been lost at some point in the last 145 years, the traditional attribution to Maratti of the present lot has been present on the accompanying mount since the 18th Century, when it was probably applied by the English collector, Charles Rogers, whose handwritten collector’s mark also adorns the lower right corner of the sheet. Rogers had an extensive collection of old master drawings and alongside the present work, owned numerous other drawings by Maratti, including The Death of St Francis Xavier, The Presentation of the Virgin, and Noli me tangere, all of which are today housed in the collection of the British Museum, London.2
Stylistically our drawing can be compared to Maratti’s graphic style of the 1680s, when the artist received arguably his most celebrated commission, to paint an altarpiece for the Cybo chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo, depicting St. John the Evangelist Disputing the subject of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin with the Church Fathers, SS Gregory, John Chrysostom and Augustine.3 Numerous drawings for this important commission survive, including sheets in the Royal Collection, Windsor4 and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,5 both of which can be dated to circa 1684-86. The handling of the pen and ink in these two drawings, which both display Maratti’s energetic, at times chaotic use of line, can be closely compared to our drawing, particularly in areas such as the drapery. Likewise, the distinctive application of brown wash in our drawing, which intentionally combined with the white of the paper, creates wonderful, modular forms and startling areas of luminosity, can be closely compared to Maratti’s The Madonna and Child adored by St. Carlo Borromeo & St. Ignatius Loyola,6 a drawing of circa 1675, which was sold in these rooms in 1994 and is today in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
We are grateful to Nicholas Turner who has endorsed the attribution to Maratti on the basis of a digital image.
1. Another major sheet was sold: sale, London, Christie's, 6 July 2004, lot 55
2. London, British Museum, inv. nos. 1950,0211.11, 1950,0211.13 and
3. A. Sutherland Harris, Seventeenth-Century Art and Architecture, London 2005, p. 126, fig. 1.127, reproduced
4. Windsor Castle, Royal Library, RL 4096; A.F. Blunt and H.L. Cooke, The Roman Drawings of the XVII & XVIII Centuries in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, London 1960, no. 286
5. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 63.18; J. Bean, 17th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1979, no. 277, reproduced fig. 277
6. Sale, New York, Sotheby's, 12 January 1994, lot 5
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