Study for a Seated Prelate (Saint Gregory the Great)

Carlo Maratti Italian

Not on view

The drawing represents a study, with slight variations, for the seated figure of Saint Gregory the Great that appears at right on ‘The Dispute of the Doctors of the Church over the Immaculate Conception’, painted by Carlo Maratti and installed as the main altarpiece of the Cybo chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Maratti made several studies for this painting, which results completed and mounted on the altar in 1686.

The Metropolitan Museum possesses two designs for the whole composition (inv. nos. 63.18 and 62.137), while a third one, made in pen and ink over red chalk, is in the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (inv. FP 1131; see Sonja Brink et al., ‘Auf Papier,’ 2009, no. 94). As proven by the first Museum's study (inv. 63.18) and a further drawing in Windsor Castle (Royal Library inv. RL 4096) – most likely the first ones of the series - the figure of Saint Gregory the Great was initially intended by Maratti to appear on the left of the composition, and it was later moved to the center-right.
Following these changes, Maratti first studied the position of the seated Gregory on a pen-and-ink drawing in Düsseldorf (inv. FP 540), where the Saint is still seen on the right of the composition. In the present drawing the figure corresponds closely to the painted result on the altarpiece in Santa Maria del Popolo. Once the position of the figure was established, Maratti focused his attention on some details, like the expression of the face and his draperies: three chalk drawings for Saint Gregory have survived, all drawn on a paper support of a similar blue-gray hue. Two intended for the head of the Saint are respectively in the British Museum (inv. 1927,0518.6; Turner 1999, no. 191 ) and in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid (no. 7970), while a sheet of studies for the Saint's draperies is in the Fondazione Cini, Venice (inv. 36137, formerly attributed to Giacomo Cavedone; see Turner 1999). According to Nicholas Turner, a further, highly finished drapery study with the upper part of an ecclesiastic, apparently seated at a table, in the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf (inv. no. FP 13105; Harris and Schaar, 1967, no. 522) could be connected with the same commission. (see here "References" for full bibliography.)

Furio Rinaldi (2014)

Study for a Seated Prelate (Saint Gregory the Great), Carlo Maratti (Italian, Camerano 1625–1713 Rome), Black chalk, highlighted with white chalk, on blue-gray paper

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