49. Battista Franco, called Semolei

Venice circa 1498/1510 – 1561 Venice

The Fainting Virgin, circa 1552

This scene appears in the background of Battista Franco’s painting of Christ Stumbling under the Weight of the Cross (1552, Uffizi, Florence). The harmony of the composition is due to the assimilation of the art of Raphael. In fact, the group sketched in this drawing was borrowed by Franco from the Renaissance master: it is taken almost literally from a drawing by Raphael made in preparation for his celebrated Deposition (1507, Galleria Borghese, Rome). Raphael’s study is now lost, but it is known thanks to an engraving, in reverse, executed by Giulio Bonasone (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Battista Franco’s masterly ability to convey the weight and volume of the bodies, and the effort made by the holy women to support the Virgin who has fainted from grief, is remarkably expressed in this powerful drawing, in all likelihood sketched from live models.