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Altar Boy with a Candle

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Title Altar Boy with a Candle
Material and technique Black and coloured chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 269 mm
Width 148 mm
Artists Attributed to: Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)
Accession number I 56 (PK)
Credits Loan Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (former Koenigs collection), 1940
Department Drawings & Prints
Acquisition date 1940
Creation date in circa 1575-1590
Watermark ?Lamb/beast in a circle with something above (47 x 39 mm, on P3 of 6P, vH)
Inscriptions ‘B.B.no: 3 [..]’ (verso, centre right, pen and ink), ‘23’ (verso, lower left, pencil)
Collector Collector / Franz Koenigs
Mark Z. Sagredo (L.2103a) inv. B.B. no: 3[..], M. Marignane (L.1848), F.W. Koenigs (L.1023a)
Provenance Nicolò Sagredo (1606-1676); Zaccaria Sagredo (1653-1729, L.2103a, inv. 'B.B. no: 3[..]' in dorso), Venice; - ; Anon., Lyon, until 1915-20; Marie Marignane Patissou (c. 1880-1925, L.1848), Paris; Franz W. Koenigs (1881-1941, L.1023a), Haarlem, acquired in 1926 (Jacopo Bassano); D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955), Rotterdam, acquired with the Koenigs Collection in 1940 and donated to Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
Exhibitions Amsterdam 1934, no. 485; Paris 1935, no. 512; Rotterdam 1938-39, no. 38; Amsterdam 1953, nr. T.3; Paris/Rotterdam/Haarlem 1962, no. 116, pl. 86; Rotterdam 2009 (coll 2 kw 4)
Internal exhibitions De Collectie Twee - wissel IV, Prenten & Tekeningen (2009)
Research Show research Italian Drawings 1400-1600
Literature Amsterdam 1934, no. 485; Paris 1935, no. 512; Rotterdam 1938-39, no. 38; Tietze/Tietze-Conrat 1944, no. 152, pl. 142,2 (J. Bassano); Amsterdam 1953, no. T.3; Arslan 1960, vol.1, p. 368 (J. of F. Bassano); Paris/Rotterdam/Haarlem 1962, no. 116, pl. 86; Gibbons 1977, p. 15 (after J. Bassano); Fischer 2018, pp. 56-57 n. 6.
Highlight > Painting technique > Technique > Material and technique
Geographical origin Italy > Southern Europe > Europe
Place of manufacture Venice > Veneto region > Italy > Southern Europe > Europe

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Entry catalogue Italian Drawings 1400-1600

Author: Klazina Botke

In 1651 Doge Nicolò Sagredo (1606-1676) acquired a large proportion of drawings directly from the studio of the Bassano family.[1] The distinguishing inscription ‘B.B. no. 3’ (Lugt 2103a) on the verso of this sheet means that it is almost certain that the Rotterdam drawing belonged to this collection. The two letters stand for Bottega Bassanese, the Bassano family workshop. From the 1560s onwards Jacopo Bassano was the head of this family business and responsible for the development of the original compositions, while his sons Francesco, Giambattista (1553-1613), Leandro (1557-1622) and Girolamo (1566-1621) continued to execute and copy his ideas until well into the seventeenth century.[2] Because the members of the family worked together so closely it is difficult to distinguish the different hands from one another.[3] This is true not only of the paintings but also of the many drawings that have survived, among them this sheet with an altar boy.

The boy, seen from behind, wears a red cassock under a white surplice. He holds a long, burning candle out in front of him. The composition is skilfully set down in black and coloured chalk, and the original paper colour was used to create folds in the surplice. The altar boy appears in the painting The Circumcision of Christ from the former collection of the Duke of Orleans. The canvas itself has not survived but the late-eighteenth-century print after the painting provides a clear picture of the composition.[4] Jacopo Bassano is named as the painter in the accompanying text. In view of the relationship with this painting, Tietze/Tietze-Conrat (1944) also attributed the Rotterdam drawing to Jacopo. Arslan (1960) doubted this attribution and suggested Jacopo or Francesco as the possible maker, whereas Gibbons (1977) described the drawing as a work after Jacopo’.[5]

There are presently at least five known painted copies of The Circumcision of Christ that are probably based on the ricordo in Princeton, attributed to Francesco Bassano.[6] The architectural fragment in the background and the boy’s unfinished cassock suggest that our drawing is a copy after the canvas and not a preliminary study. The space lower left appears to have been left empty because a woman and child were pictured in this spot in the painting. There is also a surviving drawing of these figures, likewise from the Koenigs Collection and now in Moscow (I 55).[7] Like the ricordo in Princeton, these sheets could have been used in the workshop while making copies of The Circumcision of Christ. Jacopo’s chalk drawings are generally looser and more energetic, and look more painterly, while the more descriptive and controlled studies, like this one, are virtually always attributed to his son, Francesco.[8] The Rotterdam sheet is therefore very probably made by the latter.


[1] The works later passed to his nephew Zaccharia Sagredo. This hypothesis comes from Rearick 1995, p. 132. See also Lugt Online, L. 2103a.

[2] Corsato 2010, p. 41.

[3] This was already raised by Giambattista Verci in 1775. Corsato 2010, p. 41.

[4] London, British Museum, inv. 1855,0609.431. Lili Frölich-Bum and Enrica Pan later attributed this work to Jacopo’s son Francesco. Frölich-Bum 1932, pp. 113-14; Pan 1992, p. 139.  

[5] Arslan 1960, vol. 1, p. 368. Gibbons 1977, p. 15.

[6] Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. 794.1.18; Paris (Sotheby’s) 18 March 2010; New York (Christie’s) 21 January 2010; Altenburg, Lindenau Museum; Sofia University, Bulgaria, Daneci Collection. The ricordo is now in Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, inv. X1948-1252.

[7] Moscow, Pushkin Museum, inv. I 55, with Sagredo number ‘B.B. no: 5’; Elen 1989, no. 321; Moscow 1995-96, no. 122.

[8] Fischer 2018, p. 54.

Show research Italian Drawings 1400-1600
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Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)

Bassano del Grappa circa 1510 - Venetië 1592

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