Ciro Ferri (Italian, Rome 1634 - 1689 Rome)
Mystical Communion of Blessed Stanislas Kostka, ca. 1679
Black chalk on off-white laid paper, backed with Japanese paper
18 5/8 x 13 in. (47.3 x 33.1 cm)
Friends of Art Endowment Fund, 1974
Ferri's large drawing, probably a preliminary sketch for a prospective commission for an altarpiece in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale in Rome, stages an episode in the life of
Stanislas Kostka (1550-1568), a young Polish noble who, in 1605, became the first Jesuit to be beatified.
As William Hood has demonstrated, Ferri's drawing is likely to have been a pensiero (a "thought," as opposed to a modello, or finished design) for a commission for an altarpiece in the Chapel of Saint Stanislas Kostka in the Jesuit novitiate church of Sant' Andrea al Quirinale. 1 Ferri lost the commission to Carlo Maratti (1625-1713), then the most sought-after artist in Rome. 2
The Jesuit depicted in Ferri's drawing has been identified by Hood as Stanislas Kostka, 3 but the difficulty lies in determining which ecstatic moment in his life is portrayed. Hood saw in the Oberlin drawing the "undemonstrable event of a mystical communion," tied to no particular vision, a reasonable conclusion given the apparent lack of iconographic specificity in the image. 4 J. Patrice Marandel, by contrast, probably basing his interpretation on Hood's earlier opinion (of 1976), identified the subject as a conflation of the saint's vision of the Madonna in Vienna and "his receiving communion from an angel." 5
But it is possible that the drawing was intended to depict solely the first vision of Stanislas. With the exception of Saint Barbara, the key elements of that first vision are all present in the Oberlin sheet: Stanislas, two angels, and the Host. That Saint Barbara need not be physically present in such an image is evidenced by a popular, early seventeenth-century engraving by Antoine Wierix (1552-1624) of the Miraculous Communion of Saint Stanislas Kostka, in which Saint Barbara is absent, but the inscription reads in part: " Stanislao beatorum/Panis fert/ur Angelorum/ Comitante Barbara." 6 What more appropriate subject for Sant' Andrea, the church in which Stanislas entered the novitiate, and where subsequent novices would have been impressed by the piety of both Stanislas and Barbara, in particular their chastity and personal identification with the Host? 7 What better way to counter heretics (that is, Protestants), who denied the possibility of transubstantiation and, therefore, the need of images and the lavish churches that housed them?
Still, one should not be pedantic about the subject of the Oberlin drawing. The Jesuits, steeped in the narratives of such meditational manuals as the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, would have been able to extrapolate from the drawing other episodes in the life of Stanislas, or indeed in the life of Christ, the Virgin, or any number of other holy personages. For example, a drawing from the early 1650s, attributed to Herrera Barnuevo (1619-1671) and probably meant for the head Jesuit church in Madrid, portrays the Virgin and child and Saint Barbara together with two angels giving communion to Stanislas, in an apparent conflation of the first two visions of Stanislas. 8 A contemporary printed image of the saint, by contrast, although iconographically more sparse, was subsumed in a program concerned with a good death, thus emphasizing Stanislas's having twice taken the viaticum (Eucharist given before death). 9
Neither the authorship of the Oberlin drawing nor Hood's proposed date of about 1675 have been questioned. 10 Ferri's characteristically nervous line is well suited to the subject and makes the figures fairly quiver with divine ecstacy. 11 The drawing appears to relate to a sheet in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which is attributed to Ferri, and to a painting at Tatton Park, Cheshire, "attributed to a north Italian painter of the early seventeenth century." 12 The central group in the Oberlin drawing bears a striking resemblance to the central group in the Tatton painting, while the two angels in the upper right of the Oberlin sheet resemble the figures of the right-hand angel and Christ in the Boston sheet.
D. A. McColl
Ciro Ferri was probably born in Rome in 1634. According to Baldinucci, 13 having shown some talent, he was sent to study with Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) around 1650; he became a member of the Accademia di San Luca on 3 June 1657. After mastering his teacher's style, Ferri set to work on Cortona's unfinished campaign in the planetary rooms of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, a project that would occupy him throughout the 1650s and '60s. Thereafter he completed a number of other projects begun by his teacher, including the decoration of the right aisle of Saint Peter's, and began to receive commissions from the leading families of Rome, as well as from patrons in Florence and Bergamo.
Although known primarily as a painter and draftsman, Ferri also designed engravings, architecture, and sculpture. His ciborium for the high altar of the Chiesa Nuova is recognized as one of the masterpieces of seventeenth-century bronze decorative sculpture. Along with the sculptor Ercole Ferrata (1610-1686), Ferri led the Medici Academy in Rome, which was established in 1673 by Grand Duke Cosimo III. Ferri died in Rome in 1689. His self-portrait is preserved in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
Pascoli, Lione. Vite de' pittori, scultori, ed architetti moderni. Vol. 1. Rome, 1730, pp. 171-76.
Hood, William. "Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant'Andrea al Quirinale." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1979-80), pp. 26-49.
Davis, Bruce William. The Drawings of Ciro Ferri. New York and London, 1986, particularly chapter 1.
Rodinò, Simonetta Prosperi Valenti. In Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. Vol. 11. London and New York, 1996, pp. 22-25.
Private collection, Paris 14
With H. Schickman Gallery, New York, from whom purchased in 1974
Milwaukee, The Patrick & Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, 1991. Jesuit Art in North American Collections. 7 March - 16 June. Cat. no. 17.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, pp. 24-25 (entry by William Hood), fig. 127.
Hood, William. "Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1979-80), pp. 26-49.
Davis, Bruce William. The Drawings of Ciro Ferri. New York and London, 1986, pp. 238-39 and pl. 159.
Goldsmith, Jane ten Brink, J. Patrice Marandel, J. Patrick Donnelly, and J. B. Harley. Jesuit Art in North American Collections. Exh. cat., The Patrick & Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, 1991, p. 53.
The drawing is in good condition, apart from the well-pressed horizontal crease along the center, where the paper has worn through in places; a tear and a loss along its upper right edge; some brown stains, one of which encompasses a small loss; and what appears to be occasional smudging. The sheet has four cut, slightly uneven edges, with small losses, and retains a narrow border line in black ink. Prior to its acquisition by the museum, it was mounted on heavy-weight Japanese laid paper, producing false margins and making it difficult to discern the watermark, which Stechow took to be a vase. Retouching is evident along the crease and in the upper right-hand corner. There is some surface soiling, which is barely distinguishable from the smudging.
The drawing is executed in black chalk, which strongly resembles graphite. Although scholars have discerned more than one medium in the drawing, 15 the variations may be due to differences in application, with the darker and more vigorous outlines of the central figures drawn either onto wet paper or with strokes hard enough to obscure the texture of the paper.
1. See William Hood, "Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1979-80), pp. 26-49, quote from p. 42; and idem, in Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), pp. 24-25.
2. Ferri did, however, execute two paintings for that church, a Nativity and a Flight into Egypt; see Bruce William Davis, The Drawings of Ciro Ferri (New York and London, 1986), p. 32.
3. Although the identity of the figure depicted in the drawing has not been questioned, it should be pointed out that there is a similarity between it and a polychrome sculpture of Saint Stanislas from the circle of Alonso Cano; second half seventeenth century, wood, polychromed and gilded, 88.27 cm high, collection Julius S. Held, Old Bennington, Vt., and Anna H. Audette, New Haven, Conn; reproduced in S. L. Stratton, Spanish Polychrome Sculpture 1500-1800 in United States Collections (exh. cat., The Spanish Institute, New York, 1983), cat. no. 22.
4. William Hood, "Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1979-80), p. 36.
5. In Jane ten Brink Goldsmith, J. Patrice Marandel, J. Patrick Donnelly, and J. B. Harley, Jesuit Art in North American Collections (exh. cat., The Patrick & Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee, 1991), p. 53. Cf. Hood: "composition is a conflation of two scenes from the saint's life: a vision of the Madonna in Vienna, associated with his vocation; and receiving communion from an angel"; in Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), p. 24.
6. After 1615, copper engraving; Louis Alvin, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre des trois frères Wierix (Brussels, 1867), no. 1084. See also Marie Mauquoy-Hendrick, Les Estampes des Wierix, vol. 2 (Brussels, 1978-83), no. 1013, ill. p. 139; Christiane Wiebel, Die Brüder Wierix: Graphik in Antwerpen zwischen Bruegel und Rubens (exh. cat., Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Coburg, 1995); and J. B. Knipping, Iconography of the Counter Reformation in the Netherlands: Heaven on Earth (Nieuwkoop, 1974), p. 146 and pl. 146. The Wierix family carried out important commissions for the Jesuits, and their works were widely circulated in Italy; see Thomas Buser, "Jerome Nadal and Early Jesuit Art in Rome," The Art Bulletin 58 (1976), pp. 425-33.
7. Both saints achieved their piety at great personal cost. Barbara was martyred by her pagan father, either for becoming a Christian or for losing her chastity. Stanislas incurred the wrath of his family when he stated his intention to join the Jesuits.
8. St. Stanislas Kostka Receives Communion, pen and bister and wash, 27 x 26.2 cm, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional; see Harold E. Wethey, "Herrera Barnuevo's Work for the Jesuits of Madrid," The Art Quarterly 17 (1954), p. 340 and 344, fig. 7; and Angel María Barcia, Catálogo de la collección de dibujos originales de la Biblioteca Nacional (Madrid, 1906), no. 392.
9. Schelte Bolswert (1586-1659), Stanislas Kostka, ca. 1650, engraving, 40 x 26 cm, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, inv. 51.501.1182; see M. B. Burke, Jesuit Art and Iconography, 1550-1800 (exh. cat., Saint Peter's College Art Gallery, Jersey City, N.J., 1993), pp. 50-51, cat. nos. 30-43.
10. As William Hood notes ("Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 [1979-80], p. 47 n. 6), Malcolm Campbell accepts the attribution to Ferri, as does the author of the most recent catalogue raisonné of the artist's drawings, Bruce W. Davis, The Drawings of Ciro Ferri (New York and London, 1986), pp. 238-39, and pl. 159.
11. The style of the Oberlin drawing also accords well with a drawing recently attributed to Ferri: Two Victories Holding the Arms of Pope Innocent XI Odescalchi (1676-81), black and red chalk, 25.1 x 36.7 cm, Katalan Collection; see Babette Bohn et al., The Katalan Collection of Italian Drawings (exh. cat., The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1995), cat. no. 55.
12. St. Catherine of Siena Receiving the Heart of Christ, black chalk with traces of red chalk on paper, 22 x 19.3 cm, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, inv. 1917.1423; Saint Catherine of Siena Receiving the Heart of Christ, Tatton Park, Cheshire, England, inv. 78. For a comparison of these two works and illustrations of both, see Hugh Macandrew, Italian Drawings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, 1983), pp. 36-37, no. 36. The Boston drawing is not included in Davis's corpus.
13. Filippo S. Baldinucci, Vite di artisti dei secoli XVII-XVIII, ed. A. Matteoli (1725-30; reprint, Rome, 1975), pp. 135-50.
14. William Hood, "Ciro Ferri's Pensiero for the Altarpiece of the Blessed Stanislaus Kostka in Sant' Andrea al Quirinale," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 37, no. 1 (1979-80), p. 47 n. 6.
15. Stechow (Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College [Oberlin, 1976], p. 24) states that it is drawn in both chalk and pencil.