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Jacopo Tintoretto (1519–1594)
Roman Head (So-Called Head of Emperor Vitellius)
Charcoal, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper faded to brown
13 1/16 x 9 13/16 inches (333 x 249 mm.)
Purchased as the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stern, 1959; 1959.17
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This drawing depicts a Roman portrait bust sent to Venice by Cardinal Domenico Grimani and exhibited in the Ducal Palace from 1525 to 1593. Traditionally it was thought to represent the Roman emperor Vitellius, famous for his indolence and gluttony. A plaster cast of this antique sculpture was documented in Tintoretto's studio.

About twenty studies of this bust by Tintoretto and his pupils are known. The present version portrays the head from a low vantage point, emphasizing the massive neck and jowls, with vigorous parallel hatching and sharp highlights making the figure look particularly alive and dramatic.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.