The two studies in the present lot for The Women at the Sepulchre (The Angel at the Tomb of Christ) relate to a series of paintings of this subject executed by Benjamin West throughout his career. The three versions which they resemble most closely are those catalogued by von Erffa and Staley, 373 (circa 1792, in a private collection); 378 (circa 1797, present location unknown); and 375 (1805, Brooklyn Museum, New York, fig. 1). The smaller of the two studies appears to be closer to the circa 1792 version, but in the larger drawing Raphael seems to be experimenting with the composition which reached fruition in his father's dramatic 1805 version now in the Brooklyn Museum. It is in this late picture that the soldiers at the tomb become participants in the drama, and in which the angel's hair takes on the spiralling, almost serpentine quality visible in the drawing.
During the years that these drawings were executed, Raphael was his father's constant studio assistant. They may indicate that Raphael and his father participated equally in the conception of later compositions, and that owing to West's increasing infirmity, Raphael was frequently given the task of producing preparatory studies to explore his ideas. The study for the Entombment that completes this lot is even more perplexing; its loose, frail use of line suggests that it may be an extremely late drawing by Benjamin West himself, in the same atypical style of draughtsmanship evident in The Crucifixion studies (lot 57).