Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Standing Figure of Saint Stephen and the Head of Another Figure Within the Framing Outlines of a Rectangle, Crude Sketch of the Head of Another Figure, Undecipherable Sketch of a Polygonal or Circular Object with Small Projections

Domenico Ghirlandaio (Domenico Bigordi) (Italian, Florence 1448/49–1494 Florence)
Pen and brown ink; leadpoint or soft black chalk
11 7/16 x 8 7/16in. (29 x 21.5cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971
Accession Number:
Not on view
This drawing was recognized as the work of Domenico Ghirlandaio by Everett Fahy in 1976; it had previously been classified as anonymous 15th century Florentine when it was in the collection of Walter C. Baker (1893-1971). The abbreviated facial notation -- with the inclusion of the horizontal and vertical axes for the placement of the features -- is characteristic of Domenico Ghirlandaio's drawings in the 1480s and early 1490s. The compositional studies in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (inv. KdZ 4519) and in the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica, Rome (Corsini collection, inv. FC 13095), seem closely comparable in terms of style, technique, and figural vocabulary, and as they are connected with Domenico Ghirlandaio's documented fresco cycle in the Sassetti chapel (Santa Trinita, Florence), they can be precisely dated to 1483-1485.

The Sassetti cycle was completed in time for the Christmas mass of 1485. This may also be the date of the Museum's drawing. As has been pointed out, the dalmatic worn by the figure, the palm of martyrdom, and the rocks sketched on his haloed head identify him as Saint Stephen. Everett Fahy noted that this may be Ghirlandaio's study for the central figure of Saint Stephen in an altarpiece painted after 1492 for the Boni chapel in the church of Cestello in Florence, and now in the Accademia of that city (see A. Luchs, Cestello: A Cistercian Church of the Florentine Renaissance, New York and London, 1977, pp. 95-96, fig. 76). The Boni altarpiece, in which Saint Stephen is flanked by figures of Saints James and Peter, was attributed by Bernard Berenson and Raimond van Marle to the Florentine artist Sebastiano Mainardi, but Fahy and Lisa Venturini (oral communication; October 2000) consider it to have been planned and executed by Domenico Ghirlandaio. The rough sketch of a polygonal or circular object with protrusions at right of center may represent a wheel (as in the symbolic attribute of Saint Catherine of Alexandria), or less probably, a plan of a fortification, as was suggested by Jacob Bean in 1982.

(Carmen C. Bambach, 2000, revised 2014)
Inscription: Partly undecipherable inscriptions in leadpoint most probably by the artist or a member of his workshop at right of center. Annotated in graphite at lower left corner, "15th cent / Saint Steven"; at lower right corner, "99".

Marking: At lower right, collector's stamp of Leo Franklyn (Lugt 1454a).
Leo Franklyn (German); Donor: Walter C. Baker (American)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Walter C. Baker Collection of Drawings," June 2, 1960–September 4, 1960.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," February 8, 1999–May 3, 1999.

Claus Virch Master Drawings in the Collection of Walter C. Baker. New York, 1962, pp. 16-17, no. 5 (as Florentine, 15th century).

Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1982, pp. 104-105, no. 96, repr. (as Domenico Ghirlandaio).

Jean K. Cadogan Domenico Ghirlandaio: Artist and Artisan. New Haven and London, 2000, p. 301-302, no. 102, fig. 279.

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