B efore artists began working on a panel or canvas, they usually explored ideas on paper. These preparatory sketches provide a useful insight into the artist’s creative process. They also demonstrate the importance of the preparatory stages of a project and often reveal the effort put into developing the composition into its finished state in oil.
The above work is a near-contemporary copy after Rubens' prototype, today in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which was painted in 1614-16. Dominating the canvas, the lions are depicted with a combination of startling realism and a stately sense of the Antique. Not only had Rubens made studies of Classical sculptures during his time in Italy between 1600 and 1609, he also had the opportunity to observe lions first-hand at the royal menagerie in Brussels in 1613-15, making sketches of the animals (and turning some into more highly-finished drawings), a number of which he used to inform this composition. These include: Study of a lioness, on which the prowling lioness on the right is based (British Museum, London); Study of a lion, which depicts the lion next to Daniel with its intent, arresting stare (National Gallery of Art, Washington); and the dignified lion sitting on the left, its head turned to show its mane to full advantage (British Museum, London).
There are several related preparatory works for this painting. A design sketch for the composition is in the Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre, Paris; a detailed chalk study for the head of Saint Elizabeth is in the Albertina, Vienna; and a cartoon of the painting (presumably made for the execution of the second version), now lost, was likewise purchased by Catherine the Great.
This is a painting by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and his workshop, of which the prime, signed version, painted between 1647-49, is today in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. A related drawing exists, which shows the dancing maenad in the same pose in reverse. In this case, like most of Castiglione’s other brush drawings executed on canvas, this highly worked up drawing appears to have been conceived as an independent version and not as a study for the painting.
This drawing shows Pietro Longhi working out how to compose the man seated in the lower left corner of the accompanying painting. Longhi focuses on the positioning of the sheet of music and how it is being held. The drapery is also well studied. In the finished painting, Longhi alters the way the drapery falls over the man’s thigh and he also covers up his knee.