Although Commodi had his first training in the bottega of Lorenzo dello Sciorina, an assistant of Vasari, he was highly inventive and his works remain somewhat outside the mainstream of the Tuscan Mannerist tradition. When frequenting the bottega of his contemporary Cigoli, the latter introduced him to the study of anatomy, but despite having served this very important function, Cigoli was never Commodi's master, as was claimed by the biographer Baldinucci.
As Gianni Papi, the author of the only monograph on the artist, noted at the time of the exhibition on the Seicento fiorentino, in 1986, Commodi's drawings, with their astonishingly innovative approach, rightly provoke far more interest than his painted works.1 Among them, the most fascinating and revealing of the artist's personality are the studies done from life, in chalk or pen and ink, which include informal portraits (e.g. fig. 1) as well as academy figure studies like the present sheet, and in which we can only marvel at Commodi's ability to capture spontaneous poses from life models.2 These studies speak most powerfully to our modern eye and sensibility, and demonstrate an extraordinary realism for an artist born in the sixteenth century, but as Papi stressed, they also relate to the revolutionary approach of Caravaggio, in the paintings that he executed in Rome, from 1593 onwards. Writing about the present sheet, Papi emphasised the artist's striking eccentricity, and also the great strength of this image, which is in many ways even more powerful than any of the Uffizi drawings (see Literature).
The naturalistic approach that characterises Commodi’s drawings has provoked much discussion, and it has been suggested that, more than merely demonstrating a knowledge of Caravaggio’s art, these drawings result from an actual friendship between the two artists.3 Papi has also argued that Commodi’s drawing style was influenced by the graphic works of both Santi di Tito and Federico Zuccari. He proposes a dating for these drawings of around 1610, on the basis of similarities with the artist's painted oeuvre of the first decade of the century, and this dating also seems appropriate for the present sheet. Surely executed for the artist's own pleasure, none of Commodi’s extraordinary and uniquely realistic drawn images can be related to any of his painted works. Commodi’s oeuvre as a draftsman includes also copies after Renaissance masters, especially Michelangelo, of which the Uffizi has a corpus of about seventy-five drawings.4
1. G. Papi, Andrea Commodi, Florence 1994
2. Ibid.,pp. 156-162, nos. D9 to D41, reproduced
3. Ibid., chapter III, p. 25 and pp. 154-155
4. Anna Maria Petrioli Tofani, 'Andrea Commodi e il disegno', in Andrea Commodi, exhib. cat., Florence, Casa Buonarroti, 2012, p. 57
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