The pastoral journey is a theme that Castiglione revisited throughout his career, producing variant compositions using certain stock figures to populate his sweeping landscapes. Another similar composition is Pastoral Journey in a private collection, London.1 Both drawings, executed in the same medium, share the same sense of movement and are essentially made up of similar components. They include the flock of sheep, a figure on horseback, and a woman, seen from behind, who carries a child in her hand and her wares on top of her head. An oil painting, Rebecca led by the servant of Abraham, dating to the 1650s, in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, also repeats this theme, portraying a woman on horseback surrounded by a flock of sheep.2 In our drawing the figure on horseback is actually a small child, rather than the woman who features in the oil and the drawing in a private collection. The figure of the child leaning forward on the horse can, however, be found in an etching of The Pastoral Journey, also dated to the 1650s.3
The 1650s was a period when Castiglione was successfully producing compositions that were both lively and highly controlled. His brush and oil drawings, like the present sheet, are less concerned with spatial structure than with modelling and shadow, rendered by the varying intensities of wash. Here, we see Castiglione using wash to create a sense of movement and flow across the sheet whilst he uses touches of oil to highlight certain features in his figures and animals.
Castiglione, in his brush drawings, managed to achieve effects that were strikingly similar to oil sketches by Rubens and Van Dyck. As both Rubens and Van Dyck spent time in Genoa there is no doubt that these oil studies played a part in the evolution of Castiglione’s development as an artist. Martin Clayton and Timothy Standring, writing in the introduction to the catalogue that accompanied the remarkably informative Castiglione exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in 2013, emphasize that 'few [artists] were as besotted with handling and execution in their works-in Castiglione's case ranging across paintings, drawings, prints and hybrids of these categories.'4 The exhibition in 2013 revealed how the art Castilgione was creating was utterly unique and demonstrated his skill across all media, including his breathtaking brush drawings.
His brush drawings stand out within his oeuvre for their innovativeness and originality. Castiglione, whilst certainly influenced by his contemporaries and predecessors, developed his own individual style and remained outside the mainstream of early 17th Century painting in Genoa.
1. Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione: Master Draughtsman of the Italian Baroque, exhib.cat., Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1971, no. 59, reproduced, fig. 59 2. Ibid., p. 28, fig. 12
3. Ibid., p. 145 no. E26 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York)
4. Castiglione: Lost Genius, exhib. cat., London, The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2013, p. 12
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