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  • (crossed out) "2-6"
    Type: inscription
    Location: verso
    Materials: pen and brown ink
  • James Bowdoin III( Collector, Boston) - 1811.
  • Bowdoin College Museum of Art( Museum, Brunswick, Maine) 1811- . Bequest
  • Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 5/17/1985 - 7/7/1985)
    • Clark Art Institute. ( 9/14/1985 - 10/27/1985)
    • University of Kansas. ( 1/19/1986 - 3/2/1986)
    • Art Gallery of Ontario. ( 5/17/1986 - 6/29/1986)
  • Divine Love and Martyrs' Deaths: Renaissance and Baroque Images of Saints
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 9/11/1997 - 12/7/1997)
  • Drawing on Basics
    • Bowdoin College Museum of Art. ( 10/14/1993 - 12/19/1993)
Type: catalogue
Author: Henry Johnson
Document Title: Catalogue of the Bowdoin College Art Collections
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Reference: no. 132
Remarks: (as Unknown)
Section Title: Pt. I, The Bowdoin Drawings
Date: 1885

Type: catalogue
Author: Bowdoin College Museum of Art
Document Title: Bowdoin Museum of Fine Arts, Walker Art Building
Edition: 4th
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Reference: no. 132
Remarks: (as Unknown)
Publisher: Bowdoin College
Section Title: Descriptive Catalogue of the . . .
Date: 1930

Type: exhibition catalogue
Author: David P. Becker
Document Title: Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College
Publ. Place: Brunswick, Maine
Location: pp. 106-107
Reference: no. 49 (illus.)
Publisher: Bowdoin College
Date: 1985

Giovanni Battista della Rovere and his younger brother, Giovanni Mauro (ca. 1575–1640), both spent their entire careers working primarily for the churches and religious societies in and around Milan. They were sons of a transplanted Flemish glass painter and were both, as a result, known as "Il Fiammenghino."

This drawing was first given by Judson to Marten de Vos, a Flemish artist whose many religious works are compositionally and stylistically similar to those of della Rovere.1 Yet here the draughtsmanship is more fluid than de Vos's and indicates instead the della Rovere brothers. Jacob Bean gave this sheet to Giovanni Mauro in 1963, and Lawrence Turčić gave it in 1980 to Giovanni Battista. The latter seems closer because of peculiarities of the facial features and pen technique. The Bowdoin sheet is not initialled and dated, as are many of Giovanni Battista's drawings (see BCMA 130.123 for one at Bowdoin). An apt comparison may be made with a large design in the List Collection of the Death and Transportation of the Body of St. Dionysius, datable about 1599.2 Another similar sheet is in the Metropolitan Museum, dated 1590.3

The subject of the Bowdoin drawing remained obscure until recently, when Susan Wegner identified it as the monk Marcellus's vision of St. John the Baptist. One of the many legends surrounding the relics of St. John after his martyrdom at the order of Herod, this story is told in Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda Aureum (The Golden Legend), written ca. 1275.4 Several centuries after his death, the location of St. John's buried head is miraculously revealed to two monks, who move it, only to have it stolen by another, who hides it in a cave near the city of Emissene. St. John reveals himself in a vision to Marcellus, a monk who lives in the cave. The Baptist appears flanked by two figures and preceded by many singers. The next night, the monk sees a star and follows it to a spot where the pot with the head of St. John lies buried, and he recovers it. The author of the Golden Legend specifies that this story comes from the Historia Scholastica.

Della Rovere's design follows the legend precisely, except that the setting does not resemble a cave. The two episodes of the story are here depicted together. This drawing may be preparatory to a scene from a cycle of frescoes devoted to St. John the Baptist executed around 1580 for the Cathedral at Monza, near Milan.5

1. Comments in the BCMA files on two visits, 1962 and 1968.

2. Repr. in Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Stiftung Ratjen — Italienische Zeichnungen des 16.-18. Jahrhunderts (exh. cat.) (Munich and other places, 1977-1978), cat. no. 17.

3. Bean and Turčić 1982, no. 228, repr.

4. The Golden Legend, or Lives of the Saints, trans. W. Caxton, ed. F. S. Ellis (London, 1900), vol. 5, pp. 73-74.

5. Freedberg 1979, p. 709, n. 30.

Commentary credited to David P. Becker (or not otherwise captioned) appeared in his catalogue Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College (Brunswick: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1985).