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Recumbent Lion

Recumbent Lion

Previously attributed: Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte) (in circa 1570-1580)

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Title Recumbent Lion
Material and technique Black, yellow and red chalk, on grey paper, laid down
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 156 mm
Width 373 mm
Artists Previously attributed: Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)
: Titiaan (Tiziano Vecellio)
Accession number I 57 (PK)
Credits Loan Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (former Koenigs collection), 1940
Department Drawings & Prints
Acquisition date 1940
Creation date in circa 1570-1580
Watermark Scales in a circle (fragment, at the top right edge beneath the lion's head (vH, ?P; backing paper vV, ?P), viewed with IRP (transmitted light). [see image]
Inscriptions 'Bassan' (below centre, pen and brown ink)
Collector Collector / Franz Koenigs
Mark Z. Sagredo (L.2103a) inv. B.B. no: 75, F.W. Koenigs (L.1023a)
Provenance Zaccaria Sagredo (1653-1729, L.2103a, inv. 'B.B. no: 75 or 15), Venice; - ; Franz W. Koenigs (1881-1941, L.1023a), Haarlem, acquired in 1927 (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 Florence/Paris 1976, no. 9; Rotterdam 2009 (coll 2 kw 3)
Internal exhibitions De Collectie Twee - wissel III, Prenten & Tekeningen (2009)
Research Show research Italian Drawings 1400-1600
Literature Tietze/Tietze-Conrat 1944, no. 1917, pl. 68.2 (Titian); Arslan 1960 (‘di Francesco’); Florence/Paris 1976, no. 9, ill. (Titian); Bjurström 1979, n. 6, under no. 11; Wethey 1987, no. 28, ill. 113; Rearick 1991a, no. 8, fig. f (J. Bassano); Rearick 2001, p. 174 (J. Bassano after Titian); Rosand 2004, p. 399; Whistler 2016, p. 88, fig. 77 (attr. J. Bassano after Titian)
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: Albert Elen

Titian, 'La Fede' (The Doge Alvise Mocenigo Before the Redeemer, Accompanied by St Mark and Other Saints), 1555-76, oil on canvas, 365 x 569 cm, Venice, Doge's Palace (Sala delle Quattro Porte). Photo akg-images / Cameraphoto

Tietze/Tietze-Conrat (1944) rated this drawing ‘excellent’. The work has been attributed to Titian (c.1488/1490-1576), but an attribution to Jacopo Bassano prevails in the more recent literature. There is likewise uncertainty about the function of the drawing: is it a preliminary study or a ricordo (a copy of a complete or incomplete work)?

The drawing is associated with a votive painting by Titian, titled Doge Antonio Grimani Kneeling before Faith, better known as La Fede, in the Sala delle Quattro Porte in the Doge’s Palace in Venice.[1] The commission for this huge painting was awarded in 1555, but the work had not been completed when the artist died of the plague at a very advanced age in 1576. It was finished by his workshop.[2] The drawing corresponds with the Venetian lion at the feet of the patron saint, Mark, lower left in the painted composition. In the drawing, however, only the recumbent lion is shown, and the bottom of the saint’s cloak where he stands in front of the lion is indicated with just a couple of swift lines in black chalk. This gap in the middle of the drawing looks rather peculiar at first glance. This could indicate that what we have here is a preliminary study for the lion alone, which could in theory have been made around 1555, were it not that such detail studies were usually made at an advanced stage of the painting process. The black chalk in the drawing is combined with coloured chalk, which Titian did not use but is characteristic of the drawn oeuvre of Jacopo Bassano, whose name, not coincidentally, was noted lower centre by an early collector: ‘Bassan’.[3]

Rearick (1991, 2001) regards the drawing as a copy by Bassano of the unfinished detail in the painting, made in 1575 during his visit to Titian in his house and workshop in Calle Larga dei Boteri in the Cannaregio district.[4] This view is not shared by Whistler (2016), although she does leave open the possibility that a talented assistant of Titian’s made the drawing in the technique associated with Bassano. In our opinion, this is a ricordo of the unfinished painting made by Bassano himself or someone in his immediate circle.[5] The drawing would then have been made between 1568, the year Bassano moved to Venice and his drawing style became known there, and the years after 1576, when the painting was finished by Titian’s workshop.

What has remained unremarked up until now is the similarity between this drawing and a detail lower left in a painted composition study by Tintoretto (1518-1594), now in New York.[6] It is a study for The Doge Alvise Mocenigo Before the Redeemer, Accompanied by St Mark and Other Saints, a large canvas that Tintoretto painted with his workshop for the Sala del Collegio in the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The doge gave the commission in 1571-74, but the execution dates from around 1582. Although the silhouette of the recumbent lion in the composition study is hard to make out because of its sketchy execution on a dark background, the likeness of the averted head and the open jaws is striking. In this study and in the finished painting, St Mark the Evangelist is placed behind his attribute, so the lion is fully visible and the resemblance to our drawing relates only to the animal’s shoulders, paws and head. The oil study is dated to 1576-77, in other words in the same period as our drawing. Who the inventor of this pictorial element is, Tintoretto or Titian, thus remains unclear.


[1] Valcanover 1969, no. 511, ill. Whistler (2016) refers erroneously to ‘Doge Andrea Gritti Before the Virgin’ and gives a wide date range, c.1555-76.

[2] Because the enormous canvas (356 x 500 cm) was not transported from the workshop to the Palazzo Ducale until it was finished, it escaped the devastating fires in the palace in 1574 and 1577.

[3] This old collector’s annotation in brown ink also occurs, sometimes preceded by ‘da’ or ‘dal’, on various drawings by members of the Bassano family. These sheets were part of the John Skippe Collection (sale London (Christie’s) 20-21 November 1958, lots 19, 20, 25-30, 32, 33). The collector’s annotation also appears on a drawing of a cow, likewise from the Bassano workshop, now in Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, inv. 1959-99, Fischer 2018, no. 18.

[4] Rearick (in Paris 2002, p. 86) states that Bassano copied details from Titian paintings on a number of occasions, but knows only one example, a drawing now in the Jan Krugier Foundation.

[5] In line with the opinion of Hugo Chapman (British Museum), Catherine Monbeig Goguel (Louvre) and Gert Jan van der Sman (Istituto Olandese di Storia dell’Arte, NIKI, Florence), during an expert meeting on 10 October 2019 in the museum.

[6] Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 1910 (10206); De Vecchi 1970, no. 261 E. and 261 e., ill.; Pallucchini/Rossi 1982, no. 324, fig. 419; Madrid 2007, no. 37, ill.

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Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte)

Bassano del Grappa circa 1510 - Venetië 1592

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