Giovanni Baglione, principally known today for his biographies of artists, Vite de Pittori, scultori et architetti, first published in Rome in 1642, was an extremely accomplished draughtsman, who gained high acclaim for his drawings during his lifetime. In 1604 Carel van Mander praised his ‘modo eccelente di disegnare.’2 Stylistically, his work reveals an admiration and awareness of artists such as Raphael, Corregio, Barocci, Cavaliere d’Arpino and Caravaggio. He also greatly respected the two Zuccari brothers, Federico and Taddeo, and would have been highly honored to have received the commission in Santa Maria dell’Orto, where Federico and Taddeo had worked in the late 1550s on the four frescoes surrounding the image of the Virgin.
The present study is part of a group of preparatory drawings that Baglione executed in preparation for the decoration of the apse. Another study for the Death of the Virgin is in the Martin von Wagner-Museum, Wurzburg and must precede our sketch.3 The Wurzburg drawing is more rudimentary in format and contains fewer figures; drawn in a more geometric manner and exhibiting the figures in their nude form, the artist is concerned more with placement than detail. In this earlier work, Baglione begins to set up his narrative, working on preliminary ideas for the fresco decoration; and his style is reminiscent of the French artist, Poussin. The present drawing is closer to the final fresco decoration: here we see Baglione’s rapid red chalk underdrawing, a technique typical of the Florentine and Bolognese drawing practice, with his fluent use of pen and brown ink on top. His composition is complex and introduces more figures, this time to include their drapery. His penmanship reveals that he is carefully thinking about how the drapery will fall and cover his figures. There is both an energy and precision in his application of ink. Baglione discusses the importance of drawing from life in his Vite and it is evident here that he has studied the human form.
For another study connected to the same cycle see lot 136.
1. M. Smith O’Neil, Giovanni Baglione: Artistic reputation in Baroque Rome, Cambridge 2002, p. 73, pl. 37
2. Smith O'Neill, op.cit., 1998, p. 355
3. Ibid., p. 372, fig. 24
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