Christ Disputing with the Doctors in the Temple

Francesco Salviati (Francesco de' Rossi, also called il Cecchino), Italian, 1510 - 1563. Formerly attributed to Giorgio Vasari, Italian, 1511 - 1574.

Made in Italy, Europe


Pen and brush and brown ink, heightened with white opaque watercolor, on laid paper toned with brown wash

Sheet: 10 11/16 x 16 5/16 inches (27.1 x 41.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Muriel and Philip Berman Gift, acquired from the John S. Phillips bequest of 1876 to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, with funds contributed by Muriel and Philip Berman and the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund (by exchange), 1984

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An important Mannerist painter, Salviati provided decorative works in fresco and oil for churches and palaces in Rome, Florence, and Venice. The composition of this drawing is taken directly from an earlier famous monument in Florence that was created between about 1400 and 1424, one of Lorenzo Ghiberti's bronze relief panels on the doors of the city's venerable Baptistery.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Once considered to be a drawing from the circle of Giorgio Vasari, this work was identified as an old copy after Salviati by Philip Pouncey in 1958 (correspondence, Pouncey to Carl Zigrosser, 14 March 1958), an opinion later seconded by John Gere (Gere to Ann Percy, n.d., c. 1974). In November 1975 Michael Hirst and Edmund Pillsbury (note on mat) firmly attributed it to Salviati. A number of the artist's drawings survive, in part because he produced so many. He worked in all mediums and made the customary series of preparatory studies: compositional drawings, both freestyle and finished; single figure studies; and details. The present drawing is an example of a final compositional study, the closely compacted figures interwoven into subgroups engaged in expressive interchanges, linked by rhythmic swags of drapery and framed by architectural elements. Carmen Bambach Cappel (1990, p. 204) has pointed out that the scene is a close copy of one of Lorenzo Ghiberti's quatrefoil bronze relief panels for the doors of the Baptistery in Florence, executed between 1400 and 1424, in which the boy Jesus, disputing with learned men, is discovered by his parents (Luke 2:46-47). She suggests a date of 1539 for the drawing, during a short trip that Salviati made to Florence. The artist took minor liberties with his model. Eliminating the quatrefoil format and much of Ghiberti's architectural perspective allowed him to expand the composition into a rectangular format. He added a convergence of onlookers in the background and exaggerated the pose and facial expression of Christ's mother to suggest her surprise. Salviati, like Ghiberti, had been trained as a goldsmith, and his familiarity with metal surfaces may have facilitated his transcription of Ghiberti's relief into drawing, a feat skillfully accomplished by the delicate use of the brush tip with ink wash and white heightening. Other drawings by Salviati that share the common denominator of weighty classical figures disposed in a miscellany of architectural fragments (small temples, niches, columns, rusticated walls, and broad, shallow steps) are Antique Warriors Slaying Two Men (Museum der bildenden Kunste, Leipzig); Lucretia and Her Handmaidens (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, no. 687); The Blinding of Samson (British Museum, London, 1950-727-1); Music on Mount Olympus (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2000.204); The Reconciliation of Pope Alexander III with Frederick Barbarossa (Sala Regia, Vatican); and Assembly of a King (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan, F 266 inf. no. 12; CPG 110710), as well as a number of sheets in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence (67846, 67847, 67849). The Uffizi also holds a vast number of drawings by Salviati for ornament, decoration, and festivities. Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2001), cat. 1.