Private Collection, France.
Black chalk, pen and brown ink and brown wash, pen and brown ink framing lines, watermark crowned eagle above letters GFA
493 x 387 mm. (19 x 15 in.)
The subject of our drawing is well known: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 5: 1-3).
As Moses gave the old law on Mount Sinai to Gods chosen people, so Jesus is shown to be giving the new law of the kingdom of God on a mountain to his chosen disciples who are the nucleus of the new Israel of God.
Knox describes our drawing: Domenico here creates a large and various crowd of people, with Jesus standing as an authoritative figure on the right. Three chapters, 5 7, of the Gospel of St Matthew, are devoted to The Sermon on the Mount, which thus constitutes perhaps the most important episode in the ministry of Jesus. The following drawing, The Lords Prayer -No. 116 – also forms a part of it.
Our drawing is part of The Large Biblical Series, as described by James Byam Shaw2. Though most recently this group has been called by Professor Knox Domenico Tiepolo: A New Testament. He dates the group to circa 1786-90. According to Knox: The artist himself gives no indication of his purpose and suggests no title for his work.
Knox has identified about 314 drawings (previously this was thought to be about 250). Knox comments about this group: In this pattern the large religious drawings of a New Testament stand apart, with a scale and character that was clearly planned prior to the beginning of the work, and once carried through to completion, was never used for anything else later. One important element in this was the use of the vertical format, which immediately suggests a book illustration.
Many of these drawings are now in museums. About one half are in the Louvre, 138 in fact, and are all bound in an album, known as the Recueil Fayet, since they were bequeathed to the Louvre by Monsieur Fayet in 18893. He had acquired the group in Venice in 1833. Knox has identified that at least a further 168 drawings from the series were purchased by a M. Luzarches, Mayor of Tours. These drawings passed to his kinsman a M. Rogier Cormier, also of Tours, and a parcel of 82 drawings were sold by him at auction in Paris in 1921. Knox suggests that the division of drawings between the Recueil Fayet and Recuiel Luzarche is not arbitrary, and that the drawings which constitute the Recueil Fayet were chosen first, and that Fayet left the remainder of the drawings to be selected by M. Luzarches.
Other drawings from this series are now in Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Pierpont Morgan Library and others. The present drawing also has a French provenance and has been in a private collection for the last eight decades, when it was last on the market in 1938.
This drawing has been requested for loan for the planned exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, November 2004.
I am grateful to Professor Knox for making available his comments prior to publication in 2004 and for allowing them to be included here.
1. The same watermark appears in a drawing of Punchinello at a Flogging by Domenico Tiepolo, no.281, illustration no.23 J. Bean and F. Stampfle, Drawings from New York Collections, III, The Eighteenth Century in Italy, New York, 1971.
2. J. Byam Shaw, The Drawings of Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, London, 1962, pp.36-7.
3. R.F. 1713bis.