Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)

Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)

Ercole Graziani (Bologna 1688 – 1765 Bologna)

The Virgin and Child Appearing to St Simon Stock

Graphite, black chalk, stumping, 137 x 93 mm (5.4 x 3.7 inch)

Private collection, Germany


Ercole Graziani, often called ‘the younger’, to avoid confusion with a contemporary painter of the same name, to whom he was not related, was apprenticed to a jeweller at an early age.1 He  undertook the study of drawing with Ludovico Mattioli, and later worked under the supervision of Donato Creti at the Palazzo Fava.

The influence of Creti was to remain powerful on Graziani throughout his career, tempered with an interest in light and colour, derived from the Venetian tradition. Graziani was active as a painter of altarpieces and decorive schemes in churches and aristocratic palazzi in Bologna and its environs. His Ascension of 1728 is preserved in the Pinacoteca in Cento, and his Death of St Francis of 1732 is still in situ in the Santa Maria della Pietà, in Bologna. In 1737 Graziani executed an altarpiece of the Martyrdom of Sts George and Alexandra for the Cathedral in Ferrara. Graziani was a prominent figure in Bolognese artistic circles in the mid-18th century; among his pupils was Gaetano Gandolfi.

The authorship by Graziani has been confirmed by Professor Ugo Ruggeri (see fig.).2 It belongs to a group of six comparable sheets of the same technique and size, most likely preparatory designs for prints, which have so far not been identified. Prof. Ruggeri noted that these drawings add to the knowledge of Graziani as a draughtsman, as they do not display the influence of Creti, but rather of Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665–1747), which Graziani could have acquired through his first master, Mattioli. Therefore they may date rather early in his career. In handling and execution it can be compared to a drawing by Graziani of the Virgin and Child with Sts Peter, Paul, Mamas and Lucy in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see fig.).3

St Simon Stock founded many Carmelite Communities, especially in University towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna, and he helped to change the Carmelites from a hermit Order to one of mendicant friars. The drawing depicts an apparition he experienced in Cambridge on 16th July 1251, at a time when the Carmelite Order was being oppressed. In it the Virgin Mary appeared to him holding the brown scapular in one hand. The scapular consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders. The brown scapular bestowed onto St Simon Stock remained associated with the Carmelite order.


1. For the artist, see Renato Roli, ‘Nouvelles remarques sur Ercole Graziani’, Revue de l’Art, 1971, no. 3, pp. 81 ff.

2. Photocopy of undated report accompanying the drawing.

3. Black chalk with traces of white chalk, on blue paper, 586 x 378 mm; inv. no. 28.42.4036; see M. Cazort, Bolognese Drawings in North American Collections 1500-1800, exh. cat. Ottawa (National Gallery of Canada) 1982, cat. no. 99, pp. 263-64, repr.

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Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)
Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)
Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)
Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)
Ercole Graziani (1688–1765)
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