Metalpoint, heightened with white, on gray prepared paper (recto and verso)
This fascinating drawing is closely comparable in style and technique with another double-sided study sheet, now in Budapest.1 That drawing is generally, though not universally, considered to be one of only three known drawings by Cornelis Engebrechtsz., the founding father of the Leiden school of painting, and the teacher of Lucas van Leyden. Like the present sheet, the one in Budapest has a drapery study, very similar to this, on one side, and multiple figure studies on the other (although in that case some of the subsidiary studies are thought to be possibly by another hand). In both sheets, the handling, and also the combination of media, are extremely comparable, as is the tone and texture of the blue-grey preparation with which the sheet is grounded on both sides.
John Hand wrote of the Budapest drawing that its size, and the use of the verso for a drapery study, suggested that it was "almost certainly a page from a sketchbook"2, and the same is surely true of the present drawing; indeed, the measurements of the two sheets are so close (the Budapest drawing measures 121 by 160 mm) that it seems extremely likely that both sheets originate from the same sketchbook (or pattern book). Gerszi, Hand and others date the Budapest drawing circa 1515, a dating that must also apply to the present, newly identified, sheet, which would seem to be a hugely important addition to the extremely small drawn oeuvre of this pioneer of the Netherlandish Renaissance.
Neither the drapery nor the two diabolical figures can be found in exactly the same form in any surviving paintings by Engebrechtsz., but are very similar in type to motifs in various compositions - in the case of the figures, primarily in compositions of the Last Judgement and The Temptation of St. Anthony.
We are also very grateful to Dr. Fritz Koreny for confirming that he believes the drapery studies on this and the Budapest drawing to be by the same hand, and for informing us that the studies on the verso of the present drawing are in his opinion very close in style to works executed by the Master of the Death of Absalom, in around 1520-25.
1. Inv. no. 1413; see T. Gerszi, Netherlandish Drawings in the Budapest Museum, Sixteenth-Century Drawings, 2 vols., Amsterdam 1971, no. 69/a & b, reproduced
2. In The Age of Bruegel: Netherlandish Drawings in the Sixteenth Century, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, and New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1986-87, p. 134, under no. 46
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