Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 10. The Holy Trinity (recto); Architectural studies for a vaulted ceiling (verso).

Pirro Ligorio

The Holy Trinity (recto); Architectural studies for a vaulted ceiling (verso)

Auction Closed

July 3, 10:51 AM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 GBP

Lot Details


Pirro Ligorio

(Naples c. 1510 - 1583 Ferrara)

Recto: The Holy Trinity

Verso: Architectural studies for a vaulted ceiling

Pen and black ink (recto and verso);

bears numbering in pen and brown ink lower right: ?58 (partly cut), and inscribed on the verso in pen and black ink: terra / matoni ripiano che fanno la volta

223 by 167 mm

An antiquarian, architect and painter, Pirro Ligorio's early activity in Rome was divided between making drawings after the Antique and painting house façades. He began his successful career as an architect in the service of Pope Paul IV, Carafa (1555-1559), working on the Casino of Pius IV in the Vatican, continued with the Vatican Belvedere, and in 1564 succeeded Michelangelo as chief architect of the Basilica of Saint Peter, a post he held until October 1565.

The present drawing probably dates from Ligorio's late years, and the finished composition representing the Holy Trinity on the recto, exquisitely and delicately drawn in pen and ink, could be preparatory for a book illustration. It is perhaps significant that the artist has singled out on the celestial globe, between the figures of Christ and God the Father, the zodiac sign of Scorpio, based on the corresponding celestial constellation.

On the verso of the sheet are two architectural designs for a vaulted roof. Similar architectural studies of roofs and vaults, probably related to the building projects and restorations undertaken at the castle of Ferrara following the earthquake of November 1570, are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.1 Ligorio had a long-standing working relationship with the d'Este family in Ferrara, where he worked on and off from November 1569 until his death.

1. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Canonici, Ital. 138 fol. 94r and fol. 95l; D.R. Coffin, Pirro Ligorio: The Renaissance Artist, Architect, and Antiquarian, Penn State University Press 2004, p. 114, figs. 107, 108