Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Blessed Egidius (Cartoon for a Fresco)

Lo Spagna (Giovanni di Pietro) (Italian, Spain (?) ca. 1450–1528 Perugia)
Charcoal or black chalk; outlines pricked and pounced for transfer
15 5/16 x 9 5/8 in. (38.9 x 24.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Leon D. and Debra R. Black Gift, Harry G. Sperling Fund, Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Foundation Inc. Gift, and The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 2002
Accession Number:
Not on view
This carefully rendered working drawing of about 1514-16 was produced as a cartoon, or full-scale design, for the figure of the Blessed Egidius frescoed on the right entrance wall of the small polygonal chapel (the "Cappella del Transito") by the south transept of the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi, marking the location where Saint Francis died on October 3, 1226.

A Franciscan friar and a close companion of the famous saint, the Blessed Egidius (also known as "Giles of Assisi") was born in Assisi and died in Perugia in 1262, his relics being venerated there at the Church of San Francesco al Prato. From around 1243 onward, Egidius lived at the Monte Rapido hermitage on the outskirts of Perugia. In Lo Spagna's simple frescoed composition, the figure of Egidius is accompanied by a group of Franciscan friars each conceived of in a standing, three-quarter length pose, facing toward a glazed terracotta statue of Saint Francis at the apse of the small chapel; each of the frescoed figures is inscribed with its name. As comparisons to the fresco make clear, the Museum's cartoon appears to be in nearly intact original size.

The frescoes at Santa Maria degli Angeli are among the most significant works of Lo Spagna, and were celebrated in Giorgio Vasari's brief biography of the artist (Florence, 1568). A little-known manuscript of 1570-1580 largely written by Fra' Ludovico da Pietralunga also favorably described Lo Spagna's frescoes: "...perché la cappeletta è ripartita in cinque facciate, le qual figure sono ritratte di naturale: et che veramente stanno molto bene." (Ms. 148, Biblioteca Comunale di Assisi, fol. 96 r; see Descrizione della Basilica di S. Francesco e di Altri Santuari Di Assisi, edited by Pietro Scarpellini, Treviso, 1982, p. 33.)

As is exemplified in the Museum's cartoon, the use of an orderly, diagonal cross-hatching to build up the depth of the shadows in the modeling is highly distinctive of Lo Spagna's draftsmanship it is closely inspired by the cartoon drawing technique of Pietro Perugino, and with it Lo Spagna attained both an imposing overall sculptural presence for the figure and delicate nuances of texture of the face, hair, and cloth. The naturalistic, almost portrait-like conception of the figure, caught halfway between arrested movement and mute contemplation, suggests a living person probably served as a model for the posthumous portrayal of this venerable friar. The drawing technique seen here is closely comparable to that of the three cartoon fragments (Uffizi 410 E, Florence) by Lo Spagna for his Agony in the Garden (National Gallery, London), a panel which he painted in 1510-20, and which is evocative of Perugino's Uffizi panel of the Agony in the Garden of the late 1490s.

(Carmen C. Bambach)
Inscription: On verso, at top center, annotated in pen and brown ink, by a later hand, "<305>".
Private Collection, Munich, Brittany; Galerie de Bayser, Paris; Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel , Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 27, 2003–April 28, 2003.

Carmen C. Bambach, Elizabeth E. Barker, Colta Ives, Nadine Orenstein, Michiel C. Plomp, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2002-2003." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 61, no. 2, Autumn 2003, pp. 16-7 (entry by Carmen C. Bambach), ill.

Giovanna Sapori Giovanni di Pietro, un pittore spagnolo tra Perugino e Raffaello. Exh. cat., Salone d'Onore della Rocca Albornoziana, Spoleto (Perugia), May 28-Aug. 1. Milan, 2004, pp. 31-36, fig. 27, note 41, p. 40., cat. no. 27, fig. no. 27, pp. 31-36.

Carmen C. Bambach "Disegno, pittura e l'ideale del "ben finito cartone"." Il Primato del Disegno. I disegni dei grandi maestri a confronto con i dipinti della Pinacoteca di Brera: dai Primitivi a Modigliani. Ed. by Sandrina Bandera, Exh. cat. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, 2015, pp. 27-28, note 115, fig. 12.

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