Bartolomeo Passarotti
Bologna 1529-1592 Bologna
The Christ Child and Three further Studies of his Head in different Angles

PROVENANCE: Lady Violet Crawley, thence by descent to a Private Collection, England.


Inscribed in pen and brown ink in the center of the drawing plae[r]r[i]ae and numbered in the bottom left corner 1135

Pen and brown ink

410 x 273 mm. (16 1/8 x 10 in.)

A preparatory study for the Christ Child in the painting by Passarotti of The Adoration of the Kings1, now in the Palazzo Arcivescovile, Bologna. The painting was originally in the crypt of San Pietro, Bologna, above the altar of the Ambrosini family. In 1910 it was taken to the adjoining archbishops palace where it rests today. Hppner dates the painting to about 15802, and consequently our drawing must date to circa 1580.

In our drawing the Christ Child is seated on the Virgins lap, with the hand of the Virgin clearly indicated. The position of her hand is only slightly changed in the painting, with the fingers fully positioned on the front of the child, rather than behind in the drawing. The position of the childs body on the virgins lap remains largely unchanged, however the angle of the childs head is slightly changed. This is not surprising since this is clearly Passarottis concern in the drawing with three further studies of the head, in an effort to establish the best angle. Indeed in the painting Passarotti has chosen a combination of the studies incorporating the bottom right hand head and the central one. The distinct curls in the hair of the Christ Child are used in the final painting.

Hppner has suggested that the composition for the painting was inspired by the now lost fresco by Federico Zuccaro in Rome, in SantEligio degli Orefici, which Passarotti had copied in a small copper plate in 1572, now in Munich. This is not surprising since Passarotti was in Rome by 1551, and is thought to have been living and working with Federicos brother, Taddeo.

Hppner has identified three other drawings which are connected to this project. The first is a drawing at Christ Church, Oxford, which includes a study of the kneeling King, and four other figure studies, all connected to the painting and in various poses, some clothed some anatomical4. The second is in the Asmolean Museum, Oxford of Horses Heads, which are similar to the ones in the painting, but in opposite direction5. The third drawing is in Haarlem, which is drawn on both the recto and verso, and shows studies of hands. One of these belongs to the Virgin, and she is holding onto one of the gifts from the three kings, the other studies are also connected to this painting. Our drawing is a completely characteristic use of his reed pen and this technique of close cross hatching.

The attribution and the connection to the painting have been accepted by Dr Dr. Corinna Hper7.

1.C. Hper, Bartolommeo Passarotti, 1529-1592, Worms, 1987, vol.II, Tafel 6 [Kat 20].

2.C. Hper, op.cit, vol.II, pp.31-34.

3.C. Hper, op.cit, vol.II, Tafel 35.

4.C. Hper, op.cit, vol.II, [z.279], pp177-8.

5.C. Hper, op.cit, vol.II, [z273], p.176.

6.C. Hper, op.cit, vol.II, [z118], p.139 and Tafel 35a. and b.

7.Written communication 22 June 2006.