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Work Study for a dead Christ, and details of an ear and two left arms

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Etude pour un Christ mort, études d'une oreille et de deux bras gauches

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Bartolucci Sara

This work is probably one of the preparatory drawings for the Lamentation over the Dead Christ painted by Perino del Vaga between 1520 and 1523 for the altar of the chapel of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. The artist made a careful study in red chalk of the principal Christ figure and several details. The drawing is a rare example of his working method and artistic approach. On the back, the artist sketched the decoration of a vault for a chapel in Rome.

Study of a nude for a lost painting

This drawing in red chalk must date from the early period of Perino del Vaga's work, for it is apparently a preparatory study for the figure of the Christ in the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, painted in Rome between 1520 and 1523. The painting was destroyed in the flood of 1530 and only two fragments of the thieves on the cross remain (Hampton Court). It is nevertheless possible to establish the common features of and differences between the painting and the study thanks to another drawing (London, British Museum), thought to be the final project for this painting. The pose of Christ differs slightly in the London drawing and in the painting. Moreover, for the depiction of the arm with open hand drawn on the left, del Vaga was inspired by Michelangelo's Adam in the Sistine Chapel. He made a study of the same motif in another drawing, also in red chalk (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi).

A study drawn from life

Giorgio Vasari provides us with a description of the complex and meticulous working method of Perino del Vaga. The artist liked to modify the forms he observed from life, and organize them according to the criteria he had established for the composition of a work. This drawing in red chalk, here preferred to the usual black chalk, may have been executed from life, making it unique in the work of Perino del Vaga. Comparison with the British Museum drawing enlightens us on the manner in which the artist studied the form before adapting it to an aesthetic ideal: in all the drawings of the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, del Vago emphasizes the pathetic pose of the figures.

The influence of Raphael and Michelangelo

It has been observed that the thin, non-muscular male body type featured here corresponds more to the taste of the 15th century than to the artistic precepts of Perino del Vaga's lifetime. However, in this drawing the artist seeks to portray the figure with precision, by making a meticulous study of the anatomy and bone structure. The contours are firmly traced and the effects of volume discreet. The artist showed large areas of shade by spreading red chalk with a brush or his finger. Although the influence of Raphael and Michelangelo is strongly felt, this study shows that Perino del Vaga had acquired an entirely personal manner of representing the nude.


Berenice F. et Davidson, Perino del Vaga e la sua cerchia, Florence, 1966, p. 15.
Dessins et italiens de la Renaissance, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paris, Musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1974-1975, n 46.
Autour de Raphaël, Musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1983-1984, n 84, R. Bacou.
Griswold M. W. et Wolk Simon L., Sixteenth-century italian drawings in New York collections, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, p. 70-72.
Michelangelo and his influence. Drawings from Windsor Castle, Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1966-1997.
Van Der Sman G. J., "New light on Perino del Vaga's" Deposition "for S. Maria sopra Minerva in Rome", in The Burlington Magazine, mars 1999, vol. CXLI, n. 1152, p. 164-168.
Parma E., Perino del Vaga tra Raffaello e Michelangelo, Mantoue, Palazzo Te, 2001, p. 132, notice 32.

Technical description

  • Piero Bonaccorsi, known as Perino Del Vaga (1501-1547)

    Study for a dead Christ, and details of an ear and two left arms

    1520-22 or 1523

  • Red chalk

    H. 29 cm; W. 39.5 cm

  • Former Cabinet du Roi

    INV 631

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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Additional information about the work

On the back, in lead pencil: perino del vago