Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Adoration of the Magi

Nosadella (Giovanni Francesco Bezzi) (Italian, Bologna (?) ca. 1500–1571 Bologna)
Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, with some traces of white gouache highlights (oxidized); the kneeling male figure at center reworked by the artist with pen and darker brown ink; a strip of paper added at the bottom and the design of the feet of the figure at lower left completed in brush and brown ink by an early hand, not that of the artist
Overall: 14 5/16 x 9 5/8in. (36.4 x 24.4cm), maximum, with completed strip of paper at bottom border and upper corners cropped
Credit Line:
Hewitt Fund, 1917
Accession Number:
Not on view
This drawing was bought at the Pembroke sale in 1917 as by Lorenzo Sabbatini, although it was already listed in the Pembroke album with the correct attribution to Nosadella (see here "inscriptions" and "provenance"), an attribution that is also confirmed by the style and technique with washes of the study. The figure of Saint Matthew is seated conspicuously in the foreground and is aided in his writing by an attendant angel. Matthew's presence emphasizes the fact that the story of the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child is told only in the Gospel that bears his name. The drawing could therefore be a design for a representation of this subject painted in fresco on the walls of the choir of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bologna. The altarpiece, representing the Circumcision, still survives; it is said to have been begun by Nosadella and finished by Prospero Fontana. The Bolognese art historian Carlo Cesare Malvasia reports that on the lateral walls of the choir were frescoed representations of the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi (Malvasia, 1686, p. 42, the altarpiece fig. 53/5): these lateral frescoes had disappeared under whitewash by the eighteenth century, but the lateral spaces could have easily accommodated a vertical composition such as that studied in our drawing (as Catherine Johnston has reported). Furthermore, the scale of the figures and the rhythm of the composition would have harmonized with the Circumcision altarpiece. Christine Baltay has pointed out that the figure of the old Magus standing at the right is quoted almost verbatim in a painting of the Presentation in the Temple that was sold more recently at Christie's in London (April 24, 1981, no. 95, repr.). In the painting, the Magus is transformed into a temple attendant.
Inscription: On the added strip of paper at the bottom border, the recto is annotated in pen and brown ink at lower left with the classification and collocation of the drawing in the original Pembroke album (1772): "Nosadel de Bolog / from vol. 1st No. 23."

Marking: Collector's stamps of Peter Lely (Lugt 2092) and Metropolitan Museum of Art (Lugt 1943)
Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes) (Dutch, British); possibly Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke (British); Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke (British), by 1772 (was in Pembroke volume XU.3., dated 25 Nov. 1772); by descent to Reginald Herbert, 15th Earl of Pembroke (British); Pembroke sale, Sotheby's, London (British), July 5–6, 9–10, 1917, part of lot 444 (as Lorenzo Sabbatini)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 16, 1983–April 17, 1983.

Princeton University Art Museum. "The Making of a Masterpiece: Nosadella's Annunciation and The Artist as Image," February 20, 2010–May 16, 2010.

Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1982, cat. no. 33, fig. no. 33, p. 49, ill.

David McTavish "Review of Exhibition of Bolognese Drawings at the National Gallery, Ottawa," Canadian Art Review. vol. 10, no. 1, 1983, p. 84.

Diane DeGrazia Correggio and His Legacy, Sixteenth Century Emilian Drawings. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Washington, DC, 1984.

Christine Baltay Pellegrino Tibaldi in Bologna and the Marches. PhD diss., 1985 pp. xvi, 231, ill.

Andrea Emiliani, Carlo Pirovano, Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio La Pittura in Emila e in Romagna vol. 1: Un'avventura artistica tra natura e idea. Milan, 1994, p. 323.

Anna Maria Ambrosini Massari, Raffaella Morselli, Andrea Emiliani Disegni Italiani della Biblioteca Nazionale di Rio de Janeiro. La Collezione Costa e Silva. Pesaro and Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 1995, p. 51, under no. 3.

Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio et al. L'Immaginario di un ecclesiastico. I dipinti murali di Palazzo Poggi. 2001, pp. 133-35, fig. 3 (text by Alessanro Zacchi).

Marzia Faietti, Dominique Cordellier Il Cinquecento a Bologna Exh. cat. Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale. Milan and Bologna, 2002, p. 269.

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