Inscribed on verso of mount, in lower left corner, in pen and black ink, "67" (cancelled); at upper center, in graphite, "Federigo de Baroccio"; at lower right, in graphite, "G".
As Barocci worked up his important compositions, he would move through a series of steps that included quick sketches in pen and ink, usually followed by figure drawings in chalk, with the principal heads and limbs studied further in drawings at various scales, often in a combination of black, red, and white chalk on blue paper. Barocci seems first to have made such studies at a scale smaller than the painting but often in some relationship to it (at one-third scale, or one-half scale, for example) before moving on to a full-scale cartoon and further studies of heads and limbs at full scale, often making use of pastels for the latter.1
This drawing is one of the many surviving studies for Barocci’s Deposition, painted for the cathedral of Perugia in 1567–69.2 At the point when Barocci made this study, in the middle of his preparatory process, he had already resolved the composition in most of its details. This is a study for the figure of St. John the Evangelist at the foot of the cross. The saint’s head stops abruptly in a diagonal line above his forehead that must have indicated where Barocci at some point imagined John’s head to have been behind the diagonally descending ladder, although in the final painting the saint is in front of the ladder and his entire head is visible. With the position of the figures nonetheless already set by the time such head studies were drawn, Barocci must have made drawings like the present work to explore the most subtle details: the angle of a head, the fall of light across the flesh, and—as is evident from the intense gaze and parted lips of the young man—the emotional expressions that are such a vital element of his art. Despite the apparent resolution of this figure (and presumably the other principal figures of the painting) in this drawing and at this stage, Barocci would continue to make another set of drawings at a larger scale, including a full cartoon for the painting of which fragments are in Chicago, Vienna, and Urbania.3 This proliferation of studies is typical of the artist’s extensive, even obsessive, habit of working out in drawings every detail in his paintings.
Although Janos Scholz had by the early 1970s recognized the relationship between this drawing and the head of St. John in the Perugia Deposition, the study has been little discussed in subsequent scholarship.4 Part of the issue is that the drawing was long ago mounted incorrectly, at least from the eighteenth century, when Modesto Genevosio applied his collector’s stamp to what he believed to be the lower left corner; the drawing was thus turned ninety degrees so that it appeared to be a head looking downward, making the link to the Deposition unclear. When viewed from the incorrect perspective, the hatching appears to be left-handed. Only with the drawing turned ninety degrees to the right, so that the face looks upward to the left, does it resolve itself correctly as one of Barocci’s typical studies, one surely for St. John the Evangelist in the Perugia painting.5
- For further details of this process, see Marciari and Verstegen 2008.
- For details of the painting and its commission, see Emiliani 2008, no. 22, and St. Louis and London 2012–13, 90–107.
- Art Institute of Chicago, inv. 22.5406 (see McCullagh and Giles 1997, no. 15; St. Louis and London 2012–13, no. 3.9); Albertina, Vienna, inv. 2287 (see St. Louis and London 2012–13, no.3.8); Biblioteca Comunale, Urbania, inv. 206 II (see Emiliani 2008, no. 22.14).
- The drawing is unmentioned in St. Louis and London 2012–13, the most comprehensive study of the preparatory drawings for the Deposition. Emiliani 2008, no. 22.23, mentions the drawing but describes it as the “head of a woman” and a study for “St. John the Baptist,” and seems to be echoing earlier scholarship without having understood the study’s actual function.
- There are in the Morgan’s collection other similar head studies by Barocci in chalk and pastel. These include the Head of a Bearded Man (inv. 2017.1), a study by Barocci for a painting by his assistant Francesco Baldelli (see New York 2009, no. 2); and the Studies of the Head of an Infant (inv. IV, 155), for the cherubim at the top of Barocci’s Presentation of the Virgin in the Chiesa Nuova (the drawing is erroneously listed twice in Emiliani 2008, once as no. 72.44 and then, more completely, as no. 72.56).
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 115.
Selected references: Hagerstown 1960-61, no. 30; Oakland and Berkeley 1961, no. 5; Hamburg 1963-64, no. 9; Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 16; Santa Barbara and elsewhere 1974, no. 5; Cleveland and New Haven 1978, no. 23; Emiliani 2008, no. 22.23.
Four Centuries of Italian Drawings from the Scholz Collection. Hagerstown, Md. : Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, 1960, no. 30.
Drawings from Tuscany and Umbria, 1350-1700. Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, University of California Art Gallery, Berkeley. Berkeley : Gillick, 1961, no. 5.
Italian Drawings from the János Scholz Collection. New York : Staten Island Museum, 1961, no. 31.
Italienische Meisterzeichnungen vom 14. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert aus amerikanischem Besitz : Die Sammlung János Scholz, New York. Hamburg : H. Christians, 1963, no. 9.
Oberhuber, Konrad, and Dean Walker. Sixteenth Century Italian Drawings From the Collection of János Scholz. Washington, D.C. : National Gallery of Art ; New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1973, no. 16, no. 31.
Alfred Moir, ed. Drawings by Seventeenth Century Italian Masters from the Collection of János Scholz. Santa Barbara : Art Galleries, University of California, 1974, no. 5, repr.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 316.
Genevosio, Modesto Ignazio Bonaventura Luigi, 1719-1795, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.