Pluto is unusual among Goltzius's designs for prints because it is one of two drawings for the same engraving. The print is from a series of eight engravings of gods after Polidoro da Caravaggio, which is dated 1592.1 Excluding the present example, there are six finished drawings for the series, all in the same direction as the prints, and all in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem. As Reznicek notes (loc. cit.), this drawing is smaller and sketchier than the Haarlem version of the same figure, and also differs from the finished print. Most significant is the absence of decoration around the niche, but there are changes in the tilt of the head, the shadow of the torch and the drapery as well. As a result Reznicek believes it is a preliminary design, predating the Teylers version.2
It is possible that Goltzius sketched the present sheet while he was in Rome in 1590-91, after the now lost frescoes by Polidoro. During his Italian trip, Goltzius spent a great deal of time copying antique and Italian masters. The trip had a profound effect on his style, taming the more flamboyant elements of his mannerist style and introducing a new solidity and classicism, which is evidenced here.
1. F.W.H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, Amsterdam 1949 - present, vol. 8, no. 298
2. For which, see Reznicek, Die Zeichnungen von Hendrick Goltzius, 2 vols., Utrecht 1961, cat. K241; Bleyerveld and Veldman, op. cit., no. 129
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