The Virgin Immaculate with the Four Doctors of the Church, Study for the Dispute over the Immaculate Conception

Carlo Maratti Italian

Not on view

Together with a second drawing in the Museum’s collection (inv. 62.137), the present sheet represents a composition study for the altarpiece commissioned from Maratti by Cardinal Alderano Cybo (1613-1700) for his private chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Completed and installed in 1686, the painting represents the Dispute of the Four Doctors of the Church (Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Augustine, and Saint John Chrysostom) over the Immaculate Conception.

Above the four saints appears the subject of their patristic discourse, the Immaculate Virgin Mary surrounded by a choir of angels, seated on a crescent moon, and crowned by a nimbus of stars. The present drawing records a preliminary idea for the whole composition - later modified - where the figure of the youthful John the Evangelist was intended to be standing on the far right. A copy drawn in 1705 by the obscure artist Giuseppe Maccagno, and pasted by the Italian eighteenth-century collector Sebastiano Resta onto his ‘Galleria Portatile’ (Codex Resta, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan inv. 250 fol. 232), records a further lost drawing by Maratta with this earlier composition. As proven by the final painting, and by other drawings in the Metropolitan Museum (inv. 62.147) and in the Museum Kunst Palast of Düsseldorf (inv. FP 1131), the artist drastically changed this first idea: the figure of Saint John was shifted to the left, gesturing toward the open book held by the seated Saint Gregory the Great, which was moved to the opposite side and studied in greater detail on several drawings now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 1981.364), Düsseldorf (inv. FP 540 and FP 13105), London (British Museum inv. 1927,0518.6), Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional inv. 7970), and in Venice (Fondazione Cini inv. 36137).

According to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Mary was conceived pure and free of the taint of the original sin in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne. Although it only became official church dogma in 1854, the idea gained increasingly widespread acceptance beginning in the thirteenth century and was a popular subject in seventeenth-century art.

(Furio Rinaldi, 2014)

The Virgin Immaculate with the Four Doctors of the Church, Study for the Dispute over the Immaculate Conception, Carlo Maratti (Italian, Camerano 1625–1713 Rome), Pen and brown ink, red chalk, and a trace of brush and red wash

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.