Pen and brown ink and gray wash on vellum
This drawing, the four others with which it was still together until 1960, and one more in the Rijksmuseum, were all probably part of one single design for an elaborate, multi-panel altarpiece. How such a composition might have looked can be deduced from a large drawing by the same hand as this, also on vellum, in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, which depicts fifteen different scenes from the Lives of Sts. Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria and Agatha.1
The St. Petersburg sheet bears an inscription attributing the drawing to Pieter Coecke van Aelst, and indicating that it is a design for an altarpiece for the church at Helvoirt. One of the other sheets with which the present drawing was until recently together is also similarly inscribed, very possibly in the same hand. Boon and others have doubted the traditional attribution of the Hermitage drawing, but most recently Larionov suggested that it should not be dismissed, and tentatively catalogued the drawing under the name of Coecke, suggesting that it must be an early work, from circa 1530. Such a dating must also, by extension, apply to the present drawing, which is entirely comparable in technique and style with the larger work in St. Petersburg.
1. See A. Larionov, op. cit., no. 34
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