The Loyd drawing, representing an Angel walking to the left, his hands joined in prayer, is a quintessentially Peruginesque image, and corresponds to a figure found in a number of Perugino's painted works, the earliest of which is the lunette of the high altarpiece of the Ascension, commissioned in the mid-1490s for the church of San Pietro in Perugia, and now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon.1 The same angel subsequently reappears in a number of other works by Perugino, notably in the upper section of the important and celebrated fresco of God the Father, flanked by Angels, with Prophets and Sibyls, one of six lunette-shaped scenes commissioned in 1496 as part of the decorations of the audience chamber of the Collegio del Cambio, Perugia (fig. 1). Renaissance artists frequently copied themselves and reused their own models, and members of any bottega also routinely copied from the master's drawings and painted works. Vasari in fact specifically complained about this practice in connection with Perugino, writing, in his life of the artist, that Perugino often placed exactly the same details in different pictures, thereby losing spontaneity.2
Beautifully drawn with a delicate and elegant use of the pen, the study is executed over a preliminary black chalk underdrawing, faintly visible in places. The hatching is precise and oblique, with areas of cross-hatchings, while the rhythmic lines indicating the folds of the drapery display an abundance of the characteristic Peruginesque ‘occhiellature’ (hooked ends). The figure is bathed in light, falling to the left, which sculpts the elaborately described drapery in which it is swathed. As an image, the drawing seems to focus on conveying the harmonious equilibrium of the praying angel, emphasising at the same time his idealized beauty and the intimacy of his devotion.
A fascinating and rare sheet, this drawing is closely linked with Perugino’s graphic style, and was most likely inspired by a drawn prototype by the master. In the past, it has been attributed to a range of different artists, from Perugino himself, through various named and anonymous members of his workshop, to the young Raphael.
In 1927, A.M. Hind, Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, wrote on the mount in pencil: ‘same hand as BM Pp. 1-29’. This inscription, still visible on the mount, refers to the inventory number of a study in the British Museum, An Angel playing a viol,3 which corresponds almost exactly with another angel in Perugino’s Ascension, in Lyon, to which the Loyd drawing also relates. Popham and Pouncey, in their later catalogue entry for the British Museum drawing, observed: 'It is one of a number of copies in the same elaborate style of pen-drawings, no doubt produced in Perugino’s workshop, perhaps from a drawing by him.’4 In style, technique and size, the British Museum drawing is indeed very close to the present sheet. More recently, Francis Russell proposed an attribution to the young Raphael (see Exhibited), suggesting the drawing could have been made around 1496, when Raphael would have been just thirteen years old, and greatly under the influence of Perugino, in whose workshop Vasari says he trained. Subsequently, in the privately published 1991 catalogue of the Loyd collection (see Literature), Russell writes that in 1972 James Byam Shaw endorsed a tentative attribution to Raphael, while Sylvia Ferrino Pagden suggested the name of Giovanni di Pietro, called lo Spagna (c. 1450-1528), and Konrad Oberhuber considered the drawing to be by Pietro Perugino (c. 1446-1523) himself.
Perugino created a wholly new style of painting, and the rapid spread of his idiom throughout Italy ensured his artistic reputation, in his own time and long after. Copying was a significant element of Renaissance workshop practice, in which the young artists and collaborators of a master learned through imitation. Drawings were kept in the bottega to be replicated, reused and adapted to different purposes, according to changing needs and commissions received. This approach to the use and replication of drawings was a vital element in the process of spreading and popularizing the Peruginesque style, of which the exceptional and very rare Loyd Collection drawing is so emblematic.
The distinguished provenance of this drawing can be traced back to the famous English artist-collector Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). It appears to have been acquired for the Loyd collection during the 1840s, when Samuel Jones Loyd, later Lord Overstone, is believed to have purchased en bloc the drawings collection of Thomas Blayds of Englefield Green, who had formed a large collection of Italian drawings during his sojourn in Italy. (See also the following lot.)
1. P. Scarsellini, Perugino, Milan 1984, p. 94, no. 75, reproduced p. 203, fig. 127
2. G. Vasari, Le Vite de più eccellenti Pittori, Scultori ed Architettori,ed. G. Milanesi, Florence 1878, vol. III, p. 585
3. London, British Museum, inv. no. Pp. 1-29 (as 'After Pietro Perugino')
4. A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries,London 1950, vol. I, pp. 120-121, reproduced vol. II, pl. CLXXVII, fig. 197
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