An eighteenth-century English inscription on the back of the old mount correctly identifies this drawing as a study for one of Giovanni de' Vecchi's most important commissions, the cartoons for two of the mosaic pendentives under dome in Saint Peter's. As recorded in 1642 by the biographer Giovanni Baglione ("Nella gran Basilica Vaticana il cartoni delli due Vangelisti di musaico Giovanni, e Luca sono forme magnifiche del suo ingegno") cartoons for the figures of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Luke in colossal medallions were supplied by de' Vecchi, while those for the figures of Saint Matthew and Saint Mark were designed by Cesare Nebbia. De’ Vecchi and Nebbia prepared the cartoons between 1598 and 1599, and actual work on the mosaics began in late 1599 and continued through early 1601. Vibrantly drawn in pen and brown ink over black chalk, and extensively highlighted with white gouache, Giovanni de' Vecchi's study corresponds fairly closely to the mosaic in St. Peter’s, though in the latter the Evangelist looks down rather than gazing to upper right.
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Title:Saint John the Evangelist
Artist:Giovanni de' Vecchi (Italian, Borgo Sansepolcro 1536/37–1615 Rome)
Medium:Pen and dark brown ink, extensively highlighted with white, over black chalk, on beige paper; squared in black chalk
Dimensions:10-7/16 x 9-15/16 in. (26.5 x 25.2 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1964
Inscription: Annotated in graphite at lower border of historic mount, "G. da Borgo St. Sepolcro," and toward the lower right corner "D27936," or aleternatively "D2793b." On the back of this historic mount, in pen and dark brown ink, by a late 17th or early 18th century hand: "in San Pietro in Vaticano"; by a different hand, in slightly paler brown ink: "Giovanni de' Vecchi da Borgo S. Sepolcro. / [cropped but still possibly legible: ? "il presente] disegno ideato per uno de quatro Evangelisti che sono nella Tribuna." The word here transcribe as "disgno" is entirely hypothetical, and "s" is not quite how the "s" is done by this hand within a word; an alternative is "diceano," archaic for "dicevano." Moreover, at lower left corner of the verso of this mount is written in red ink" "Lot 110" (the typical annotation of the Reynolds's sale March 1798, Lugt 3016a). This lot number seems to correspond to the catalogue of Reynolds's sale, Monday, March 5, 1798, p. 7, lot 110, "110 4, Raphael , &." However, this is hypothetical, considering that this is not a Raphael drawing or a Raphael school drawing. However, the only lot including a drawing by Giovanni de' Vecchi in the Reynolds's sale, March 8, 1798, p. 17, lot 345, "345 6 F. Mola, Vecchio &."
Marking: Stamped lower right with the collectors' marks of Thomas Hudson (Lugt 2432) and Sir Joshua Reynolds (Lugt 2364).
Thomas Hudson (British); Sir Joshua Reynolds (British); his sale, Harry Phillips, London, not clear, March 5, lot 110; or March 8, 1798, lot 345; Samuel Rogers (British); his sale, Christie's, London, April 28–May 16, 1856, lot 941; Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1964, lot 212
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Italian Renaissance Drawings from New York Collections," November 9, 1965–January 9, 1966.
A. P. Story and others Old Master Drawings [Sale Catalogue]. Sotheby's, London, December 1, 1964, p. 72, lot 212.
Jacob Bean, Felice Stampfle Drawings from New York Collections, Vol. I: The Italian Renaissance. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1965, p. 77, no. 138, ill.
E. O. Hauser "Saint John the Thunderer." Readers Digest. May 1966, pp. 162-63, ill.
Walter Vitzthum "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: Drawings from New York Collections." The Burlington Magazine. 108, (Feb. 1966),. London, 1966, p. 110.
John Gere Il Manierismo a Roma. Ed. by Walter Vitzthum, I disegni dei maestri, no. 10, Milan, 1971, fig. 40.
Antonio Pinelli "Pittura e controriforma: "convenienza" e misticismo in Giovanni de' Vecchi" Ricerche di Storia dell'Arte. no. 6, 1977, p. 60, fig. 36, ill.
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. 260-61, no. 266.
John Gere, Philip Pouncey Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in The British Museum. Vol. 5: Artists Working in Rome, c. 1550 to c. 1640. with the ass. of Rosalind Wood, London, 1983, p. 176.
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