The drawing is preparatory for the head of the tyrannicide Thrasybulus, found in the fresco on the vault of the Sala del Concistoro in the Palazzo Pubblico at Siena, painted by Beccafumi between 1529 and 1535 (Siena 1990, p. 648). The frescoes were the last major pictorial commission awarded by the Republic of Siena. The ceiling celebrates scenes and figures from Greek and Roman history that exalt civic virtues as extolled in Valerius Maximus’ Factorum et dictorum memorabilium (New York 1959, 22). Thrasybulus (died 388-389 B.C.), who freed the Greek Republic from the Thirty Tyrants and their leader Kritias, is one of eight heroes of antiquity represented in pairs in the corners of the Sala del Concistoro vault.
As also seen in the Morgan’s other Beccafumi drawing of this type (inv. no. I, 19a), the present sheet follows the master’s practice of making preliminary brush studies, in oil on paper, in the final stages of preparation for a painting or fresco. It is one of over twenty such studies in this medium by Beccafumi, mostly of heads, for the Sala del Concistoro frescoes (Torriti 1998, nos. D66-69, D94-111). The remarkable naturalism of the worn-out features, the deep-set eyes and the single jutting tooth make it likely that in this case, the drawing was taken from life.
Judey 1932, 149, no. 225; Mongan and Sachs 1940, 1: 54, no. 66; Sanminiatelli 1955, 36, no. 2; New York 1959, no. 17, XV; New York 1965-66, 47, no. 61; Sanminiatelli 1967, 127, no. 17; Gordley 1988, 205, 393-94, nos. 83, 96; Baccheschi 1977, 100, 103 no. 111; Amsterdam 1981, 20, no. 33; Torriti 1998, no. D106; Eitel-Porter and Marciari 2019, 305-6.
Stampfle, Felice, and Jacob Bean. Drawings from New York collections. I: The Italian Renaissance. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1965, p. 47, no. 61, repr.
Dervaux, Isabelle. Drawing connections: Baselitz, Kelly, Penone, Rockburne, and the old masters. New York: Morgan Library & Museum, 2007, p. 39, 45 (repr.)
Watermark: none visible through lining.