[The Madonna of the Rose]
The subject of this drawing is unusual. One can see why there is a suggestion on the old mat that it is the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine. Although the composition is much like the well-known one of the Christ Child with St. Catherine, St. Joseph here takes the place of the Madonna, who is always seen with this subject. The kneeling female figure must then be the Madonna herself, receiving the rose from the Christ Child, here supported by St. Joseph. If this is the case, it is a very unorthodox representation of this subject, giving increased importance to Christ's stepfather and less importance to his mother. The rose was a symbol of the Virgin, who was the "mystic rose," or rose without thorns. The rose also represents the grief of the Virgin over Christ's death as well as the emblem of purity and suffering. Thus, it can represent not only the Virgin but Christ himself. Often the Virgin is offering roses to Christ, but sometimes Christ offers a rose (or roses) to his mother. Here Christ holds the rose in his hand as an attribute of his suffering and offers it to the Virgin as a symbol of her own suffering over his death.
Laid down on blue mat with gold framing and black framing lines. This in turn laid down on cream paper.
The drawing is not by Donato Creti but is a copy after the print of 1787 by Antonio Bresciani (repr. Giovanna Gaeta Bertelá Incisori bolognesi ed emiliani dels sec xviii, Bologna, vol. III, pt. 2, no. 109), which is after a lost composition by Donato Creti (Marco Riccomini, Donato Creti, Le opere su carta. Catalogo ragionata, Turin, 2012, p. 52, under cat. no. 40.4 and fig. 34 for the Bresciani print). The figures' features are finer in the drawing than in the print and suggest the artist was not Bresciani himself (The morphology of drawings attributed to Bresciani are less refined: see Giuseppe Bertini. L'appartamento del Duca Ferdinando a Colorno dipinto da Antoinio Bresciani, Colorno, 2000, pp. 118-128). The graphic manner of the print and of the drawing follow one of Creti's two basic styles, which varied between rapid sketches and highly detailed engraving-like hatched sheets as here (see, for example, the drawing in the Armand Hammer Collection and the National Gallery, Washington, of Apollo standing in a river landscape, inv. no. 1987.24.1, dated 1720-30). The sheet seems a bit harder than Creti's authentic hatched drawings and for that reason the attribution to him is not viable (Marco Riccomini rejects Creti's authorship of the drawing, email correspondence 30 January 2013). In addition, the drawing at the Library of Congress is approximately the same size as the print, suggesting again that it is a copy and not a preparatory drawing. The terminus post quem of the sheet is 1787, the publication date of Bresciani's print, many years after Creti's death.
Mistaken is the early attribution of the composition to Simone Cantarini (1612-1648). There are no known works by Cantarini that reflect this composition, either painted, drawn, or etched. Nor does the drawing style accord with his. Instead one must look a century later to another Bolognese artist, Donato Creti (as suggested on the mat), who was influenced by both Cantarini and Guido Reni, and for that reason perhaps the origin of the composition is either Cantarini or Reni. There is a painting by Cantarini (Fano, Cassa di Risparmio di Fano) of the Madonna of the Rose in which the Christ Child stands looking at his mother, who supports him, and offers her a rose but otherwise it is not in any way related to this drawing.
Attributed on mat: "Donato Creti, Bologna,18e siecle." Recto: Lower left edge of mat in brown ink: "Simone Cantarini da Pesaro inv." Center of lower edge of mat in brown ink: "S. Caterina da......??" Lower right edge of mat in brown ink: "Donato Creti a Genoa[?] feci" Verso: In center in black chalk: "Creti Donato" Lower edge middle in black chalk: "591".
Inscribed in pencil on mat: "after a print? Try Reni prints."
Inscribed in pencil on front of mat: "#189."
George Lothrop Bradley Collection, no. 591 (stamp verso of mat, lower right) (Lugt suppl. 288b).
Title and artist from P&P Bradley Collection inventory card: The Holy Family by Donato Creti. Additional note on inventory card reads: "Cantarini, Simone. call. Il Pesarese (1612-1648), px".
Title, attribution, date, subject, and physical description by Diane de Grazia, 2014.
Bequest; George Lothrop Bradley; 1919.