This small oil on copper is a study for Liss's imposing oil on canvas of The Prodigal Son, now in the Germanische Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg (160.5 by 240 cm., Inv. No. Gm 1182). The Prodigal Son was probably painted shortly after the artist's arrival in Rome around 1622/23 and, based on its considerable size and complexity, was most likely a commissioned work.1
Differences between the study and finished painting are numerous and allow us to see how Liss developed the composition. While the study appears to be set on a terrace with a landscape beyond, the painting in Nürnberg is set in an interior. Other notable changes include the addition of the couple in the background to the right of the figure pouring wine and of the figure of the boy at far left, the removal of the still life at lower right, a change in the position of the dog in the foreground, and the replacement of the plumed hat on the right of the bench with a helmet. A preparatory drawing by Liss, now in the Gabinetto dei Disegni degli Uffizi, Florence, shows many of these additions and changes, indicating that it was probably done at a later stage in the artist's working process than the present oil study.
1. See R. Klessmann, Johann Liss, A Monograph and Catalogue Raisonné, Doornspijk 1999, p. 133.
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