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Work The Virgin and Child with St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius Loyola

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Vierge et l'Enfant avec saint Charles Borromée et saint Ignace de Loyola

Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo S. Nagy

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Boyer Sarah

The Louvre conserves three preparatory drawings for the Spada chapel of the Santa Maria in Vallicella church in Rome. This one is a compositional study, quite different than the painted version.
The rapid and energetic style is characteristic of Maratti in the 1670s; the following two decades were marked by a certain degree of mannerism.

A meticulous development

The painting's composition was carefully worked out through a series of preparatory drawings. The group of St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius Loyola, and the Virgin was rapidly sketched from nude models in three works in red chalk. There is a quick sketch of the body of the Virgin (based on a male model) wearing veils, while the folds of her drapery are rendered in a separate study (both in the Düsseldorf Kunstmuseum). Maratti made one study of the head of St. Charles Borromeo (Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin); another of the saint in his bishop's habit (Windsor Castle); and two drawings (Düsseldorf) which focus on drapery effects. A study of St. Ignatius in Berlin is very close to the definitive composition; it is complemented by another in Genova (Palazzo Rosso, Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe) which includes details of the hands; also in Düsseldorf is another red-chalk hand study of the saint.
The closeness of these detail studies to the final painting presupposes the existence of a third ensemble sketch, as further attested by the copies or atelier drawings found in Copenhagen and the Albertine Museum in Vienna. In 1994 the Louvre acquired another study, which had previously escaped the notice of historians and would appear to complete the series; this study makes it possible to follow the evolution of the composition toward a wider and more discerning symmetry.

The protector saints of the Spada family

The retable of the Spada chapel, commissioned by the marquess Orazio Spada, is dedicated to the Virgin, accompanied here by the two patron saints of the Spada family: St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius Loyola. St. Charles Borromeo was born in 1538; an archbishop of noble lineage, he devoted himself to nursing victims of the plague. Consecrated in 1612, he became one of the most popular saints of the Counter-Reformation. Born in the Basque country in 1491, St. Ignatius Loyola converted to Catholicism after being seriously wounded. During a religious retreat in Catalonia, he wrote the Spiritual Exercises, and formed a new order with a military-like organization: The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. Approved by papal bull in 1540, the order of the Jesuits made an important contribution to the success of the Counter-Reformation through education of young people and evangelization of Far Eastern countries.

A fruitful decade

Maratti had much to do in the 1670s. To name only the most important commissions: the ceiling of the Altieri Palace between 1670 and 1676; the altarpiece The Virgin and Child with St. Francis of Sales and St. Nicolas of Bari (Ancona, Pinacoteca Communale) in 1672; and the altarpiece of the Santa Maria sopra Minerva church, where St. Peter presents the Virgin with the five new saints of the pontificate of Clement X. The works of this period, with their rapid and energetic line, are notably different in approach from those of the two following decades, where the artist's style became more mannerist (INV 3352, RF 4393). The vigorous detail studies would become more energetic under the influence of Guido Reni and Giovanni Lanfranco. Bernini showed his enthusiasm by standing before a Maratti painting and remarking to a professor: "Così si dipinge" (That's how painting is done).


Bacou Roseline, Bean Jacob, Le Dessin à Rome au XVIIe siècle, 91e exposition du cabinet des Dessins, cat. exp. musée du Louvre, 24 mars-6 juin 1988, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, n 98.First Blaženka, Carlo Maratta in barok na Slovenskem : pomen z Maratto povezane grafike za barocno religiozno slikarstvo na Slovenskem, Ljubljana, Založba ZRC, ZRC SAZU, Narodni muzej Slovenije, 2000.Harris Ann Sutherland, Schaar Eckhard, Kataloge des Kunstmuseums Düsseldorf, 3,1 Handzeichnungen. Die Handzeichnungen von Andrea Sacchi und Carlo Maratta, Düsseldorf, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1967, pp. 112-113 et p. 130.Nieto Alcaide, Victor Manuel, Carlo Maratti : cuarenta y tres dibujos de tema religioso, Madrid, Real Academia de San Fernando, 1965.Ormesson-Peugeot Domitilla (d'), in La Rome baroque de Maratti à Piranèse : dessins du Louvre et des collections publiques françaises, 97e exposition du cabinet des Dessins, cat. exp. musée du Louvre, 15 novembre 1990-18 février 1991, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1991, n 20.Westin Jean Kathrin, A Documentary and Stylistic Investigation of the late Works of Carlo Maratti as seen in the Presentation Chapel in St. Peter's, Londres, Ann Arber, University Microfilms International, 1982.

Technical description

  • Carlo MARATTI (1625, Camerano-1713, Rome)

    The Virgin and Child with St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ignatius Loyola

    c. 1674

  • Pen and brown ink; brown wash on red chalk sketch

    H. 29.9 cm; W. 17.5 cm

  • C. degli Occhiali Collection; Pierre Crozat Collection; Pierre-Jean Mariette Collection; sold, Paris, 1775, part of no. 481; purchased for the king's cabinet

    INV 3351

  • 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 drawing, lower right in pen and brown ink by Crozat: 17. Montage with inset by Mariette