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Work Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Dormition et Assomption de la Vierge

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Surname FirstName1, Surname2 FirstName2

Between 1515 or thereabouts and 1520, Pedro Machuca worked in Italy (in Rome and probably in Florence). This drawing, which was classified among the anonymous Italians of the sixteenth century, testifies both to the influence of Italian artists on his work and to the trace he himself left upon the Italian peninsula, notably on the Neapolitan painter, Marco Cardisco.

A carefully executed composition

This drawing is clearly divided into two registers. The lower part depicts the Dormition of the Virgin, who is lying on her bed in a shroud. She is surrounded by the apostles, whose different poses and expressions give a certain vitality to this scene of affliction. In the upper register, two angels support the mother of Christ for her Assumption. She appears in a halo of light in the form of a mandorla; her hands are joined, and she is surrounded by angels. God the Father welcomes her into heaven. The drawing is carefully executed, and the small pinholes indicate that it was used as a modello.

A preparatory drawing or modello?

This drawing has been linked to a painting on the same theme attributed to Machuca (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples), for which it is though to have been the modello. However, significant differences from the "pala" (large altarpiece) in question, and the existence of a panel painting which takes up with some variations the graphic frieze of the Dormition, mean that this hypothesis can only be accepted with reservations. The panel painting is attributed to Marco Cardisco (whose presence in Naples is documented for the period 1517/20-1541), who is thought to have fallen under the powerful influence that Machuca exerted on southern culture, first during a stay in Rome around 1517, then in Sardinia and southern Italy after his return to Spain. If the theory is correct, Marco Cardisco would have copied Machuca's altarpiece in Rome, some time around 1532 perhaps, rather than in Naples. The Louvre drawing can also be interpreted as a first modello that was circulated among Machuca's entourage, thus giving rise to a painted copy that was itself an interpretation, with both works being at a considerable remove from the Machuca altarpiece. While it retains the general structure of the drawing, the altarpiece belongs to the early Spanish period - that of the panels in the Capilla Real at Granada (1521), the Pentecost in Puerto Rico, and the Creation of Eve in grisaille (Church of St.-Rémi, Troyes), all dated before or around 1535.

Machuca and Italy

Machuca seems to have had a powerful influence on the artistic development of southern Italy and on devotional painting in particular. The technical and plastic affinities of the drawing with the Deposition and the Entombment enable us to outline the scope of that influence and the character of Machuca's draftsmanship. We note, for example, the most unusual manner in which volume is colored with a mixture of grey and brown inks (a technique little used at the time, other than by Pupini and Polidoro, but employed in all the Louvre drawings), as well as the highly nuanced fusion of white highlights with wash, sharply separating the shadows and the outlines of the figures, and giving fluidity to the whole. The proportions, the familiarity of certain kinds of physiognomy (such as bearded men and putti), and the Rosso-like manner in which the limbs are dislocated and the head is detached from the body all echo the Entombment.

Bibliography

- BOUBLI Lizzie, Inventaire général des dessins : Ecole espagnole XVIe-XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002, n 14.

Technical description

  • Pedro MACHUCA (Toledo, circa 1490-Granada, 1550)

    Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin

    Before 1530-35?

  • Pen and brown and grey ink, brown and grey ink wash, white highlights (gouache), on tinted beige paper, squaring for transfer in pen and brown ink, with pinholes around the figure of the Virgin.

    H. 37.3 cm; W. 25.3 cm

  • Saint-Morys collection; confiscation of émigré property, 1793; transferred to the Louvre in 1796-97.

    3910198

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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