Drawn with black chalk, and extensively stumped and worked up with wash, this sheet is a rare early drawing by Cades that treats a religious subject. It can be compared to one from 1779 that is equally original in its composition and technique, The Virgin and the Christ Child with three Saints in the National Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (inv. 70/137; see M.T. Caracciolo, Giuseppe Cades, 1750-1799, et la Rome de son temps, Paris, 1992, no. 38, ill.). Both the Toronto and the Bloxam drawings do not relate to any known pictures, and Maria Teresa Caracciolo has suggested, on the basis of the finished quality, that the Toronto drawing was made to be sold directly on the market. Both drawings show the influence of the Old Masters and drawings like these were highly sought after by collectors. Another drawing that is close in execution to the present sheet, showing portraits of the Princes Camillo and Francesco Borghese as young boys, and made in the same year, was sold in these rooms on 5 July 2017, lot 47 (acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. 2017.346). Executed in a different technique, but also showing three saints, is a drawing in the Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest (inv. 2506; ibid., no. 149, ill.).
The mount on which this drawing is laid down is the same as five other drawings from the Rugby collection by, or attributed to, Cades (see lots 52, 100, 101, 137 and 138). The mounts appear to be from the early 19th Century, and they were seem to indicate that the drawings were acquired as one group, possibly from Cades's studio.
We are grateful to Maria Teresa Caracciolo for her assistance in cataloguing this drawing.