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Madonna of the Nativity (detail of the Holy Family with the Young St. John and an Angel by the Master of Santa Lucia sul Prato)

Not on view

Madonna of the Nativity (detail of the Holy Family with the Young St. John and an Angel by the Master of Santa Lucia sul Prato)

Attributed to: Rosalba Peale (American, 1799 - 1874)

Date: n.d.a.
Medium: Graphite on paper
Dimensions:
Overall: 14 × 11 7/8 × 11 1/8in. (35.6 × 30.2 × 28.3cm)
Signed: Recto, lower right (within image): 'R. Peale'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 99.10
Label Text
This drawing reproduces the figure of the Madonna in a multi-figured painting. Holy Family with the Young St. John and an Angel, executed by a follower of the Florentine artist, Lorenzo di Credi (ca. 1457-1536). Throughout the nineteenth century the Renaissance painting hung in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Rosalba Peale-daughter of the portraitist Rembrandt Peale-never traveled to Italy, so this drawing must have been based on some reproductive engraving or, possibly, from a photograph. The famous Italian photographic firm, Fratelli Alinari, founded in 1852, photographed the tondo, but it is not clear when this took place. The circular format that Rosalba adopted for her drawing echoes the composition format of the original composition.

Copying art works was an important activity during the nineteenth century. Before photographic reproductions were commonplace, copies helped to spread knowledge of famous works of art among individuals who might not otherwise be able to see the original. Copies also reinforced the approved canon of "official" taste and, in an art school setting, the making of copies taught young artists lessons about pictorial design, color and draftsman ship. Copies also enabled American travelers to bring home a memento of their visit to a famous European art collection. In many cases such works were executed by professional copyists, an activity of genteel respectability oftentimes practiced by women.

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