This drawing is related to a close collaboration between the three Carracci, a commission for overdoor paintings for the Palazzo Sampieri in Bologna, now in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, dated 1593-1595 (see F. Zeri et al., Pinacoteca di Brera. Scuola emiliana, Milan, 1991, nos. 67, 71 and 76, ill.). The three works illustrate passages from the New Testament: the picture by Annibale Christ and the Samaritan woman; that of his cousin Ludovico Christ and the woman at Cana; and the one by Agostino (Fig. 1), Annibale’s brother, the scene in the present drawing (John, 8:3-11).
Several other studies by Agostino for the painting exist: two, also in pen and brown ink, in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (inv. NM919/1863 and NM910/1863; see P. Bjürström, C. Loisel and E. Pilliod, Italian Drawings. Florence, Siena, Modena, Bologna, Stockholm, 2002, nos. 1357-1358, ill.), one heightened with white on brown paper at the Bristish Museum (inv. 1913,0111.3; see C. Robertson, op. cit., no. 37, ill.), and a figure study of Christ in black chalk on blue paper, heightened with white chalk, in the Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest (inv. 1863; see A. Czére, Disegni di artisti bolognesi nel museo delle arti di Budapest, Bologna, 1989, no. 16, ill.).
In each of these compositional sketches the background differs considerably, as do the positions of the figures. The final painting is different yet again, with Christ standing at left (in the pose of the Budapest study) and the woman at right. The crowd of onlookers in the Landolt drawing has been sacrificed, resulting in a more concentrated composition; it must be among the earliest sketches Agostino made for his painted contribution to the commission.
Fig. 1. Agostino Carracci, Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.