When this work appeared on the market in 1977, Sir Denis Mahon proposed a dating of circa 1585-90, but on stylistic grounds it seems more probable that it was executed slightly earlier, around 1582-83. The handling of the red chalk, although here somewhat more robust, can be compared to Annibale’s drawing of A young man weighing meat, in the Royal Collection,1 a preparatory study for the artist’s celebrated early painting, The Butcher’s Shop, in the collection at Christ Church, Oxford.2 The use of the red chalk is here essential but vigorous, the rapidly drawn, informal and captivating figure in profile presented with great simplicity and boldness. The drawing also highlights Annibale’s sensitivity and psychological insight in the imitation of ‘Nature’, and is characteristic of his revolutionary approach, which was at the heart of the new figurative language that the artist introduced, in stark contrast to the formulaic Mannerism that was so much in vogue at the end of the 16th century.
In the 17th century, when in the famous collection of Padre Sebastiano Resta (1635-1714), the drawing was already attributed to Annibale, as we know from the entry in the Lansdowne Manuscript, a document preserved in the British Library,3 which records the notes that Resta made about each of the drawings in the albums from his collection that were acquired by John, Lord Somers (see Literature). Resta, a passionate collector, was an Oratorian in Santa Maria in Vallicella, Rome, and justified his collecting activities as a way of raising money for charity, promising any profits that he might make to his religious Order. Over a long collecting career, he compiled thirteen albums containing a total of some 3,500 sheets, which included a great number of important drawings.4 His portrait by Carlo Maratti (1625-1713), showing him examining what must surely be one of his celebrated albums of drawings, is preserved at Chatsworth.5
Babette Bohn, from an image, has kindly confirmed the attribution to Annibale and agrees with the early dating of the drawing.
1. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, inv. no. RL 2215; see The Drawings of Annibale Carracci, exhib. cat., Washington, The National Gallery of Art, 1999-2000, cat. 1, reproduced
2. Oxford, Christ Church Picture Gallery; D. Posner, Annibale Carracci, London 1971, vol. II, pp. 3-4, cat. no. 4
3. London, British Library, Lansdowne MSS 802
4. For more information on the collection of Padre Resta see also: G. Warwick, 'The Formation and Early Provenance of Padre Sebastiano Resta's Drawings Collection', Master Drawings, vol. XXXIV, (1996) no. 3, pp. 239-278
5. M. Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Italian Drawings, Roman and Neapolitan Schools, 1994, p. 140, no. 261, reproduced
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