The Morgan Library & Museum's collection of Italian old master drawings is one of the most significant in this country and functions as a cornerstone of the institution's holdings in graphic art. The nucleus of the Morgan's Italian drawings—presently numbering at nearly three thousand sheets including sketchbook and album pages—originated in Pierpont Morgan's 1909 purchase of fifteen hundred drawings from the Fairfax Murray collection, which contained exceptional examples of sixteenth- and eighteenth-century Italian draftsmanship. Since then the Morgan has acquired, through both purchases and gifts, remarkable Italian drawings and continues to grow.
The Morgan houses drawings by Italy's most prominent Renaissance artists. Florence—arguably the center of draftsmanship in Renaissance Italy—yielded a plethora of master draftsmen, such as Sandro Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, and Fra Bartolommeo, whose works reveal the central role of drawing in the artistic process. This practice is brought to a remarkable level of perfection in drawings by the canonical triumvirate of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. The succeeding generation of artists, such as Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Pontormo, and Luca Signorelli, as well as major north Italian masters of the Renaissance, such as Correggio, Parmigianino, and Andrea Mantegna, are also well-represented in the collection.
From artists who worked for papal Rome during the seventeenth century, the Morgan owns significant works by Annibale Carracci, Gianlorenzo Bernini, and Pietro da Cortona. The breadth of the Morgan's collection of Italian Baroque drawings is due in large part to the incorporation during the second half of the twentieth century of the Janos Scholz collection, which introduced a large number of accomplished drawings by artists working in various artistic centers, such as Bologna, Naples, Genoa, and Milan.
Venetian drawings are a particularly rich component of the Morgan's Italian drawings collection. In addition to drawings by Renaissance masters such as Vittore Carpaccio, Titian, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese, the Morgan's holdings comprise the best collection of Venetian eighteenth-century drawings in the United States. Sheets with elegant views of Venice by Canaletto and Giambattista Tiepolo's exquisite decorative designs are numerous and of the highest quality.
Jacopo da Pontormo (1494–1557)
Standing Male Nude Seen from the Back and Two Seated Nudes, 1517–21
Inscribed at lower left, in pen and black ink, Jacopo da Pontormo Purchased as the gift of the Fellows with the special assistance of Mrs. Carl Stern and Janos Scholz; 1954.4.
A pupil of Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo also explored the human figure in studies after garzoni posed in the studio, although
he blended Andrea's naturalism with his own eccentric grace. Working in red chalk, he applied pressure to create bold
contours and emphasize details, while reducing the heads to simple ovals or curves. The figures do not correspond to any
known works by the artist and are more likely a free exercise in life drawing done about 1519–21, when Pontormo was at
work on the decoration of the Great Hall in the Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano.