The Virgin Annunciate
Facing right with her eyes closed, ready to embrace the message of the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary here stands under an arch decorated with a classical frieze. She is wrapped in a long mantle defined through flat, broad, metallic folds that have a distinctly Ferrarese character, as do her square face and broad hand. The precise use of pen and ink on parchment makes this drawing nearly comparable in sharpness to a print. The author of the sheet is still unknown but might be identified as a painter-engraver active in the late fifteenth century between the Marches and the Valpadana—the area between the cities of Milan, Padua, and Ferrara. It is likely that the figure of the Archangel Gabriel making his announcement was originally included in the composition, before it was cut down on its left side by a previous collector.The drawing was first published with an attribution to Francesco del Cossa proposed by Tancred Borenius, and it was exhibited as such at the Royal Academy in 1930. On that occasion, A. G. B. Russell suggested the rather unlikely name of the Lombard Bernardino Butinone, and the drawing figured in the Oppenheimer collection under this designation. Cossa, however, seems nearer the mark, for the flat, broad, metallic folds of the drapery have a distinctly Ferrarese character, as do the square face and broad hands of the figure. Ferrarese drawings of the late fifteenth century are rare, and often of problematic attribution. At the present state of our knowledge of this material it seems impossible to say anything more specific of this fine design on parchment than that it is probably by a Ferrarese, or more generally North Italian, artist not far from Parentino, Cosmé Tura or Marco Zoppo.
Anonymous, Italian, Ferrarese, 15th century