Lot 6
  • 6

Giorgio Vasari

25,000 - 30,000 USD
122,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giorgio Vasari
  • grand duke cosimo de'medici reviving the city of volterra
  • Pen and brown ink and wash, over black chalk, heightened with white, on blue paper.  Squared in black chalk.  Irregular triangular shape
  • 152 by 184 mm; 6 by 7 1/4 in


Sale, London, Christie's, 23 June 1970, lot 54, reproduced


Newcastle upon Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Italian and Other Drawings, 1500-1800, 1974, no. 10, reproduced pl. VI;
Newcastle upon Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Italian Drawings 1525-1570..., 1982, no. 8, reproduced pl. IIA 


Antichità Viva, vol. 9, 1970, 3, p. 71, reproduced;
C. Monbeig-Gogel, Musée du Louvre, Inventaire Générale..., Vasari et son Temps, Paris 1972, p. 162 (under no. 210);
E. Allegri and A. Cecchi, Palazzo Vecchio e i Medici, guida storica, Florence 1980, p. 152, no. 7, reproduced; 
R.A. Scorza, 'Vasari and Gender: A New  Drawing for the Sala di Cosimo I,' Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, 1995-96, p. 65ff; 
F. Härb in Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence, exhib. cat., Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, 2005, p. 300, under no. 110, and p. 355




Catalogue Note

This beautiful and characteristic drawing is a study for one of the spandrels in the corners of the ceiling of the Sala di Cosimo I in Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (fig. 1).  The room is part of the Quartiere di Leone X, which Vasari and his assistants began to decorate shortly after 1556.  In a letter to Vasari of that year, the humanist Cosimo Bartoli set out an iconographical program which was, however, altered in the final work.  A central scene depicts the victory of Cosimo I at Montemurlo, surrounded by tondi representing important events in his life.  The spandrels show him rebuilding or fortifiying various Tuscan towns.  As Rick Scorza has pointed out, Bartoli was inspired by classical examples, frequently found on coins, of Roman emperors reviving the fortunes of towns.1

A large and elaborate design for the whole ceiling is in the Louvre, although Vasari made some changes to the final arrangement of the scenes.  Two other drawings for spandrels are known, one in Ottawa (for the scene relating to Sansepolcro) and the other at Yale (for the scene relating to Fivizzano).  They are similar in shape, size and medium to the present drawing.  A study for the central scene is in the Uffizi and one for one of the four tondi is in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan.2  Rick Scorza has suggested that these might all originally have formed part of a large modello on blue paper.

The present drawing shows Cosimo placing a crenellated crown on the head of a kneeling woman who represents Volterra, and who points to a salt pan, a reference to the city's salt works.  In the Louvre drawing, she also presents a rock salt crystal to the Duke.  The final painting closely resembles this drawing, with the addition of a distant view of the town.  Vasari himself, in his Ragionamenti, describes the scene: '...segue, qua poi, dove il duca siede, Volterra vecchia per l'antichità, la quale inginocchiata mostra a sua Eccellenza le caldare con le saline che bollono, et Sua Eccellenza gli mette in capo la corona murale, e gli dà privilegi, e ci ho fatto il ritratto della montagna di Volterra a punto come sta....'3


1. Scorza, op. cit.
2. Härb, op. cit.
3. G. Vasari, I Ragionamenti e Le Lettere edite e inedite, ed. G. Milanesi, Florence 1882, VIII, p. 194