C ombining drawings with paintings in this summer’s sale provides us with the opportunity to highlight the inextricable link between the two artistic disciplines. Drawings, whilst sometimes works of art in their own right, served more often than not as the first steps in the design process when artists were embarking on a particular commission.
Many of the drawings offered in this sale 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 or fresco. The selection below also illustrates the variety of different media employed by artists over the centuries, from pen and ink to washes and chalk, each serving its own specific purpose. The choice of paper was also integral to the visual effects created; opting, for example, for blue paper rather than white could emphasise the light effects or bring out aspects of the use of chalk in a particular figure or sketch.
Girolamo Siciolante, called Il Sermoneta, Seated Virgin, Estimate £18,000–22,000
Lot 182, by Girolamo Siciolante, called Il Sermoneta, is a preparatory drawing for the central figure of the Madonna in the Assumption of the Virgin, painted in the 1560s in the vaulted semi-dome of the Fugger Chapel, in the Roman church of Santa Maria dell’Anima.
The drawing, executed in black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, is squared for transfer, allowing the design to be accurately scaled up in the final fresco.
Pierre Subleyras, The Falcon, Estimate £25,000–35,000
Lot 227 is a lively and animated red chalk drawing by the French artist, Pierre Subleyras, depicting the story of The Falcon, taken from the Fables of La Fontaine.
Here, Subleyras is exploring not only the compositional layout, but also the fall of light, an aspect so fundamental to his painted works, with their intense luminosity and inimitable use of white.
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, L’âme brisant les liens qui l’attachent à la terre, Estimate £30,000–40,000
Lot 236 is a striking and powerful drawing by Pierre Paul Prud’hon. It is one of at least three surviving compositional studies by the artist for his late masterpiece L’âme brisant les liens qui l’attachent à la terre, dating to circa 1821-23, now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Using blue paper, Prud’hon is able to create a wonderful sense of light and shadow, and ensure his black and white chalk has the perfect surface from which it can stand out vividly. Drawings were not only important in relation to paintings. As the two following examples show, they were also central to the work of printmakers, sculptors, goldsmiths, and artists in so many other fields.
Hieronymus Cock, A man walking inside the ruins of the Colosseum, Estimate £18,000–22,000
Lot 180, by the Flemish artist, Hieronymus Cock, depicts a man walking inside the ruins of the Colosseum. Executed in pen and brown ink, it is the preparatory study for the fifth print in a series of 25 views of the ruins of ancient Rome, etched by Hieronymous Cock after his own designs, and published in 1551.
Those prints were the first images of the great buildings of Rome to be widely circulated in Northern Europe, and their influence was immense. The outlines in the drawing have been gone over with a sharp metal stylus, to transfer the design directly to the engraver’s plate, and as a result the printed image is in reverse to the drawing.
Alessandro Algardi, Design for a vase with a female allegorical figure seated on two dolphins on the cover flanked by two alternative handles, a lion and a satyr with a putto, Estimate £15,000–20,000
Lot 200 is a design for an elaborate vase by the Bolognese artist and sculptor, Alessandro Algardi. Executed in pen and ink and grey washes, it has been suggested that this design may have been intended to be made in silver, with the medallions possibly in a different material such as crystal.
The design shows a choice of two alternative versions of the handles, further emphasizing the drawing’s function in the preliminary stages of the production process.