Baron Robert von Hirsch, Basel;
from whom acquired, by a relation of the present owner, in exact exchange for two Goya Desparatez prints, and two chiaroscuro prints
H. Thomas, The Drawings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, New York 1954, p. 59, cat. no. 66C, reproduced.
Hylton Thomas dates this lively study circa 1753-60, and notes that it may once have been part of the same sheet as two other studies of workmen, also executed in black chalk and of similar dimensions (see H. Thomas, op. cit., p. 59, nos. 66a-c). These three studies by Piranesi were on the same mount when in the collection of Baron von Hirsch, and are all laid down on the back of fragments of prints. The printed Roman numerals at the bottom of the sheet of the Man seen from the rear (no. 66a) appear on the title page of the Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto of 1753, Piranesi's first detailed treatment of Roman decorative art, but the drawing may, of course, postdate the print by several years (according to Thomas, other examples of this can be found amongst Piranesi's drawings).
Thomas points out the stylistic similarities between these three chalk studies and a pen and ink drawing in the Ashmolean Museum (op. cit , p. 60, no. 68, illus); he suggests a slightly later date, circa 1760-65, for the Oxford drawing, but also points out that Piranesi's mature figure style from 1750 onwards changed relatively very little. Allowing for differences due to the medium, the Ashmolean sheet appears very similar in style to the standing figure on the right of the present sheet. A further similar study of two figures, in black and red chalk and datable around 1762, is in the Louvre (inv.no.R.F.29003; see Disegni di Giambattista Piranesi, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 1978, no. 60, reproduced).
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