A study for the figure of the nurse in the artist's 1685 altarpiece for S. Maria dell'Anima, Rome, now in the castle of Bückeburg near Hanover (fig. 1). When Maratti received the commission for the picture in 1685, he was at the peak of his career as the pre-eminent artist in Rome with an international reputation.
This sheet was probably completed quite late in the preparatory process as it is very close to the nurse's pose in the picture; her head is in the same position and the light and shadow hit her face at the same angle.
In the foreground of the picture an elegant nurse sits holding the infant Virgin in her lap as she looks to the right and reaches her left arm out to take swaddling clothes from an attendant. In the drawing, the subsidiary study of her outstretched left arm is placed at a slightly different angle on the page, but again Maratti seems to have determined the light source, which hits the underpart of her lower arm just as it does in the picture.
This drawing was probably part of the collection owned by Maratti's pupil, the painter, draughtsman and architect Andrea Procaccini (1671-1734) who has appended his paraph on the sheet. He amassed a large collection of drawings which included many works by Maratti. Much of this collection was later sold by his widow in 1775 to the Academia Real de San Fernando in Madrid, as the artist spent the latter half of his career in Spain (for a drawing with a similar paraph, see V.M. Nierto Alcaide, op. cit., no.6).
Bellori recounted the travails of the altarpiece's commission by the church of S. Maria dell'Anima, primarily a place of worship for the German community in Rome. After the picture was installed in the church, the congregation disputed the price with Maratti and returned it to him. Maratti promptly sold it to Count Frederick Christian de Schaumburg-Lippe (1655-1728) for his castle, Bückeburg, where it remains, and the Germans invested the money originally reserved for the altarpiece in a vineyard at Genzano (P.G. Bellori, The lives of the modern painters, sculptors and architects, A. Sedgwick Wohl trans., New York, 2005, p. 415).
There are several other preparatory drawings for this composition. Two are in Düsseldorf (E. Schaar and A. Sutherland Harris, Die Handzeichnungen von Andrea Sacchi und Carlo Maratta, I, Düsseldorf, 1967, nos. 337-8); two are in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid (fig. 2; V.M. Nierto Alcaide, Carlo Maratta; cuarenta y tres dibujos de tema religioso, Madrid, 1965, nos.1-2). A red chalk study on blue-grey paper for the figure of Saint Anne is at Windsor (A. Blunt and H.L. Cooke, The Roman drawings of the XVII & XVIII centuries in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, London, 1960, p. 53, no. 256). A sheet of studies of the infant Virgin also executed in red chalk on blue paper (fig. 3) was recently sold in these Rooms, 4 July 2000, lot 16.
We thank Dr. Stella Rudolph for having kindly confirmed the attribution of this drawing on the basis of a photograph.