This study of an angel is related to Canuti's fresco decorations in the library of the monastery of San Michele in Bosco, now the Istituto Rizzoli. The new library was commissioned and paid for by Abbot Taddeo Pepoli, who felt the monastery did not have an adequate space for such a purpose, 'corrispondente alla nobiltá delle altre sue parti'. The work on this library, which which would have included scientific instruments as well as books, started in 1677. It was still intact with all its furnishings in 1788, but eleven years later the Order was suppressed, and from 1804 to 1824 the buildings were used as a prison. Fortunately the fresco decoration did not suffer, and is today in a good state of preservation.
The present figure appears on the central ceiling in the first room of three frescoed by Canuti; the subject of the fresco is La Concordia sulla Terra (see Simonetta Stagni, Domenico Maria Canuti, Rimini 1988, p. 183, reproduced fig. 40a). An early pen and ink study in Besançon (Stagni, op. cit., fig. 42) shows that prior to conceiving this audaciously posed youthful male, Canuti planned that a more conventional putto should hover above the Temperaments, depicted below. Although the pentimento next to the foot in the present drawing demonstrates that Canuti was still in the process of revising aspects of this figure, in other respects it appears in the final fresco largely as here. The artist did, however, make significant changes to the drapery, rendering the figure rather less likely to distract the Olivetan monks from their studies.
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