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Renaissance Venice: Drawings from the Morgan
May 18 through September 23, 2012

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Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo (1480–1548/49)
Head and Shoulders of a Bearded Man
Black and white chalk, with some brown wash; outlines pricked for transfer
10 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches (267 x 193 mm.)
Gift of Benjamin Sonnenberg, 1977; 1977.61

Brescian by birth, Savoldo lived in Venice from at least 1520 until 1548. He was an exceptionally rare draftsman, to whom only about fifteen drawings have been attributed. His drawings exhibit the same sense of atmosphere and luminosity that characterize the chalk drawings of Titian, Lotto, and other painters of the Venetian school.

The sitter is shown in contemporary dress. His sidelong glance leveled at the viewer and full lips—parted as if about to speak—make this one of the most intriguing of Savoldo's portraits.

Jacopo Tintoretto (1519–1594)
Two Studies of Samson Slaying the Philistines (Judges 15:14–19)
Black chalk, heightened with wetted white chalk, on blue paper (faded)
17 1/2 x 11 3/8 inches (443 x 285 mm.)
Thaw Collection, 2005; 2005.234

In 1528 the republic of Florence commissioned Michelangelo to create a marble group representing Samson slaying the Philistines. The artist prepared a model but never executed the sculpture. Tintoretto owned a wax or clay model after Michelangelo's design, which is recorded in several drawings by him and members of his workshop. Tintoretto is said to have produced drawings after sculpture and "all good things" throughout his career, including statues by Jacopo Sansovino and casts of sculptures by Michelangelo and Giovanni Bologna.

Tintoretto's characteristic swelling contours and sharp flicks of the chalk heighten the drawing's sense of drama.

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

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.

Titian (ca. 1490–1576)
Landscape with St. Theodore Overcoming the Dragon, ca. 1550s
Pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk
296 x 297 mm.
Inscribed on old mount at center, beneath the drawing, in pen and brown ink, Titiano da Cadore.
Gift of János Scholz, 1977; 1977.46

Arguably the greatest of all Venetian painters, Titian was held in high esteem during his lifetime. His paintings and drawings were as novel in subject matter and composition as they were bold in technique. St. Theodore Overcoming the Dragon is one of the rare landscape drawings attributed to the artist.

Theodore, one of the patron saints of Venice, did not slay the dragon but instead made it roll over in submission. The figure seated under the tree in the background may be the mother who, according to legend, brought her ailing child to be bathed in a miraculous well guarded by the dragon.

Cesare Vecellio (1521–1601)
Degli habiti, antichi et moderni di diversi parti del mondo (Of Costumes, Ancient and Modern, of Different Parts of the World)
Printed by Damian Zenaro in Venice, 1590
Opening: Woman Blonding Her Hair
Purchased with the Toovey Collection, 1899; PML 9626

Vecellio initially joined the workshop of his famous cousin Titian, but by 1570 was primarily active as a publisher. This book contains woodcut illustrations of costumes—exotic and domestic—and marks the culmination of a trend that began with the increase in travel during the mid-sixteenth century. Highly popular, this most famous example of costume books became a model of the genre.

The woman shown here is assiduously trying to make her hair a lighter shade of blonde with the help of different liquids. Her pianelle, high platform shoes, stand nearby.

Paolo Veronese (1528–1588)
Studies of Jupiter Astride the Eagle, 1557
Pen and brown ink, brown wash
5 3/4 x 3 3/8 inches (145 x 87 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909; I, 90a

Like the studies of Bacchus and Apollo in the Morgan's collection, the present drawing is associated with Veronese's frescoes on the vault of the upper loggia in the Palazzo Trevisan, Murano.

Veronese likely kept the present sheet in his workshop, for the upper sketch of Jupiter astride his eagle was reused in a now lost ceiling canvas executed for the Palazzo Pisani, Venice.

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