Jacopo Chimenti, known as Jacopo da Empoli after his family’s place of origin, was a pupil of Maso da San Friano (1536-1571). He was also inspired by the works of earlier masters including Fra Bartolommeo, Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo, whose compositions he copied regularly during his artistic training. Born in Florence, he lived and worked there throughout his life, never traveling far from the city. As a Florentine, Empoli’s artistic education, like that of his contemporaries and predecessors, was shaped by the mantra that disegno was the supreme art form: Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists, called it the father of the three arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. Empoli embraced this tradition wholeheartedly, making numerous drawings in preparation for his commissions and projects. He also established an informal academy in his studio in the 1620s and 1630s, teaching other young artists the importance of drawing dal vero (from life).
The present study does not appear to relate to a specific figure in any of Empoli’s surviving paintings, but similar, fashionably attired young men do feature in a number of his compositions, and the drawing can be fittingly compared with other studies of single figures, drawn in a similar technique, using pen and brown ink and wash, in the Uffizi, Florence.1 These studies all demonstrate Empoli’s concentration on strong outlines and the use of light, which he skilfully employs using varying intensities of wash. Empoli’s figures frequently exhibit a carefree nonchalance and this is certainly the case in the Loyd Collection study, where the boy stands with one hand on his hip, the other resting lightly against his chest, his feet slightly apart. The handling of the medium, using a variety of lighter and darker tones of wash and fluctuating pressure in the pen and ink lines, yields a nimbleness that is almost tangible. Perhaps the most comparable figure study, in the Uffizi, is the Study of a young man wearing a plumed hat,2 a figure that embodies the same casual elegance as the Loyd boy. Light is also an integral aspect of both drawings, and in both cases Empoli has included the shadow cast by his figures, giving the impression that these young men were drawn in an outdoor situation, in natural light.
The Loyd drawing perfectly embodies the practice of ‘buon disegno’, which was so avidly encouraged in Florence at the time, not only by the artists themselves but by those who patronised them. Combining the spontaneity of a freely drawn sketch from life with acute attention to detail, Empoli here achieves outstanding aesthetic results, apparently effortlessly, and with typical elegance and grace.
1. A. Marabottini, Jacopo di Chimenti da Empoli, Rome 1988, p. 148, no. LXXI (Young boy drawing, Uffizi inv. no. 961F), p. 154, no. LXXXII (Study of a standing man wearing a cloak, Uffizi, inv. no. 3458F), p. 156, no. LXXXVIII (Model in standing pose, Uffizi inv. no. 3457F) and p. 157, no. XC (Young man in a plumed hat, Uffizi, inv. no. 953F)
2. A. Marabottini, op.cit., p. 157, no. XC (Young man in a plumed hat, Uffizi inv. no. 953F)
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