Italian Drawings

  • pen and ink drawing of religious figure standing tied to column, drawn twice

    Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431–1506)
    Two Studies for Christ at the Column
    early 1460s
    Pen and brown ink
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    This rare study was made in preparation for an engraving. The artist used both sides of the paper to explore ways of depicting the biblical scene of the Flagellation, in which Christ is violently scourged. On the recto (at left), Mantegna shows Christ twice as a muscular nude. His slumped posture, bound hands, and downcast expression convey his human suffering, whereas the heroic body and the halo communicate his divinity.

    Mantegna probably started with the verso of the sheet (at right). Here, Christ's tormentor is depicted in an aggressive stance between two portrayals of Christ in agony. With little concern for detail, Mantegna loosely outlined the figures and experimented with alternative ways of showing Christ's bent, anguished body. The vulnerability of the Son of God deviates from the biblical account of his suffering and its depiction in earlier paintings.

  • pen and ink drawing of female religious figure holding an object, drawn twice

    Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
    Studies for Saint Mary Magdalene
    c. 1480–82
    Pen and brown ink
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Leonardo used drawing as a means of developing compositional ideas. In these two sketches he explored the turning half-length figure of Mary Magdalene in preparation for a devotional painting otherwise only documented in works by the artist's followers. Starting with the larger version, he added the more summary drawing below. There the saint gazes directly at the viewer while lifting the lid of a jar of oil, an attribute that refers to her anointing of Christ's feet.

  • pen and ink drawing of religious figures with infant and animals outside a stable

    Attributed to Giovanni Bellini (?) (active by c. 1459–1516)
    The Nativity
    c. 1480
    Pen and brush and brown ink
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Here we are given a close view of the Holy Family, separated by a wicker fence from the sweeping landscape beyond. The drawing's technique is wide ranging, from the precise hatching employed for Joseph and Mary to the free, more loosely drawn shepherds. The artist has worked confidently, moving from left to right. He did, however, make changes as he went. For instance, the ox's tail was drawn over the dog.

  • pen and ink drawing of winged angel in long robes running

    Pinturicchio (c. 1454–1513)
    Study of a Flying Angel
    c. 1481–85
    Silverpoint, pen and brush and brown ink with white gouache, on gray prepared paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Pinturicchio's Flying Angel derives from the Assumption of the Virgin that his teacher, Perugino, painted in the Sistine Chapel (it was later replaced by Michelangelo's Last Judgment). Pinturicchio may have worked on Perugino's commission; this is, however, not a preparatory sketch but a record of the original. The drawing's finesse and delicate details celebrate the skill of its maker, Pinturicchio, as well as Perugino's original invention.

  • pen and ink drawing of seated religious figures seen from behind, one with book

    Vittore Carpaccio (1460/66–1525/26)
    The Virgin Reading to the Infant Christ
    late 1480s–early 1490s
    Pen and dark brown ink over red chalk
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Perched on a window ledge, a mother turns from her book to look at her son. Only the haloes and the crown held by the toddler indicate that this is Mary and the infant Christ. The mood is domestic and almost impromptu, as if the sitters have been captured unawares. The back of this sheet (at right) holds another study by the Venetian painter of the Virgin with the Christ Child and Saint John.

  • pen and ink drawing of landscape with small human figures in middle ground

    Fra Bartolommeo (1472–1517)
    The Sweep of a River with Fishermen and a Town in the Background
    c. 1505–9
    Pen and brown ink
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Fra Bartolommeo is one of the earliest Italian artists to have left a large group of landscape drawings, many of which were composed in preparation for his paintings. This view of Florence from the nearby Tuscan hills features small figures on the embankment of a river that leads toward the city and its prominent cathedral dome. The minimal, light pen strokes suggest that the artist created the work quickly, possibly at the location itself.

  • black chalk drawing of youth sitting with arm atop a table

    Pontormo (1494–1557)
    Seated Youth
    c. 1520
    Black chalk
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    This large study depicts a young boy dressed in the humble apron and breeches of a workshop assistant or garzone. He poses in a gesture of fear, one hand curled into a fist in front of his mouth, his hollow eye sockets and direct gaze amplifying the psychological charge. The stains on the paper suggest that it was kept in the artist's studio.

  • black chalk drawing of seated woman asleep with hand on cheek

    Parmigianino (1503–40)
    Woman Seated on the Ground
    c. 1523–24
    Black chalk and white gouache on light brown tinted paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Parmigianino seems to have made this drawing of a female figure as an experiment in technique and expressive form. Rather than using white solely for highlights, he applied it extensively to the woman's face, hands, and drapery to create volume as well as detail. The contrast between white gouache and black chalk produces a subtle effect of light and dark appropriate to the figure's meditative pose and expression.

  • black chalk drawing of man seated with spherical object with winged figure above

    Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564)
    The Dream (Il Sogno)
    c. 1533
    Black chalk
    Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Samuel Courtauld Trust (Princes Gate Collection), 1981

    Michelangelo's complex allegory shows an idealized nude youth surrounded by worldly vices. A winged being approaches with a trumpet as if to awaken him to a new life. Michelangelo may have presented this drawing to his beloved friend, the young Roman nobleman Tommaso de' Cavalieri. The work immediately became famous among collectors and artists, who copied it numerous times and, exceptionally for a drawing, it acquired a title when the Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari named it in 1568.

  • pen and ink drawing of religious figure carrying cross, drawing repeated twice

    Paolo Veronese (1528–88)
    Studies for Christ Carrying the Cross
    c. 1571
    Pen and gray-brown ink and wash
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    Many of Veronese's drawings are in pen and ink and were made to assist the artist in developing his compositions. This example is related to a painting of Christ carrying the Cross and records two ideas for the central scene of Christ and his tormentors. Figures and compositions almost merge into one another, conveying a sense of the excitement and speed with which the artist worked.

  • black chalk drawing from behind of man bent over, on one leg, falling forward

    Jacopo Tintoretto (1518–94)
    Study of a Male Figure Bending Forward
    c. 1575–85
    Black chalk, and traces of white chalk, on blue paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    As his biographer Carlo Ridolfi noted, Tintoretto loved to "draw from the live model in all sorts of poses, endowing them with grace." This study is executed in Tintoretto's preferred medium of black chalk on coarsely fibered paper. The model could not have held this position for long, and supports himself with a stick. He was probably also kneeling on a stool, but Tintoretto chose not to represent this prosaic prop in his dynamic drawing.

  • red chalk drawing of child seen from behind, between mother's knees

    Guercino (1591–1666)
    A Child Seen from Behind, Standing Between His Mother's Knees
    c. 1625
    Red chalk with stumping
    11.9 x 80.3 inches
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952

    This unusually intimate image of motherly care demonstrates Guercino's masterly use of red chalk. It draws much of its quality from the contrast between the delicately modeled body of the infant, whose soft skin is rendered by the smudging and stumping of the chalk, and the freely but precisely sketched folds of the mother's sheltering garments.

  • pen and ink drawing of exterior of ornate building with columns and sculptures

    Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1589–1680)
    The Louvre, East Façade (study for the First Project)
    Pen and brown ink
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Blunt Bequest, 1984

    In 1664, Bernini took part in a competition to design the east façade of the palace of the Louvre in Paris, which Louis XIV wished to complete. This freehand drawing shows Bernini's initial proposal for the façade, featuring a central oval pavilion. Bernini's unusually animated design was rejected in favor of Claude Perrault's plan for a linear row of columns on a raised pavilion.

  • black chalk drawing of boy and elderly bearded man

    Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683–1754)
    The Head of a Boy and of an Old Man
    c. 1739–40
    Black chalk heightened with white chalk, on gray paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952

    This close-up view of a bearded magus and a young man reading is an example of the "character head" — a type of independent drawing pioneered by Piazzetta and prized by his early eighteenth-century collectors. The artist has aligned the boy's focused gaze with the man's pointing finger as it presses emphatically on the page.

  • pen and ink drawing of city with river and boats

    Canaletto (1697–1768)
    A View from Somerset Gardens Looking towards London Bridge
    c. 1746–55
    Pen, brown ink, and gray wash
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    In 1746, Canaletto traveled to England and over the following decade produced a record of mid-Georgian London. In this finished work, drawn as a collector's item, London is seen from above the terrace of Old Somerset House, designed by Inigo Jones in the 1630s (and, since 1989, home to the Courtauld Institute). Stairs lead to the Thames. In the distance at right are the arches of Old London Bridge, while St. Paul's Cathedral towers above a skyline dotted with spires.

  • pen and ink drawing of two figures and infant, one holding book

    Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770)
    The Holy Family with Saint Joseph Reading
    c. 1757
    Pen, brown ink, and gray brown wash
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Princes Gate Bequest, 1978

    During the late 1750s Tiepolo produced as many as seventy drawings of the Holy Family. This freshly preserved composition is both monumental and tender, as Mary cares for the Christ Child while Joseph reads a book. Washes of varying intensity model the figures, creating transparent shadows and deep pockets of shade on the luminous sheet.

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