Stamped on a piece of paper pasted to verso, in black ink, at upper center, "70", and inscribed, in graphite, "18".
Son and pupil of the Cremonese painter Boccaccio Boccaccino, Camillo was active in Venice until 1525 but then primarily worked in Cremona and other towns in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. The art of Titian had a profound and lasting impact on his work. Like Giulio Campi, he combined the elegant and fluid forms of the young Parmigianino with the occasional eccentricity and startling foreshortenings of Pordenone. After Parmigianino, he was the earliest artist in northern Italy to adopt a truly Mannerist style.
John Gere identified this drawing, whose attribution to Boccaccino was made by Philip Pouncey, as the study for the exterior of monumental organ shutters in the church of Santa Maria di Campagna, Piacenza, dated 1530. The shutters were commissioned on 31 July 1529 from Camillo, who agreed to complete them by the following March. They were later dismantled and since 1970 have been in the Pinacoteca di Palazzo Farnese, Piacenza. The composition shows the prophet Isaiah holding a scroll at left. He is identified by the verses inscribed on the base of the column at his side in the painting that prophesy the incarnation of Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). The figure at right is King David, the poet and composer of psalms and thus an apt motif to decorate an organ. Unusually, he is here shown with a viola da gamba rather than the harp that he played according to the biblical account. This substitution can probably be explained by Cremona’s reputation as a center for the manufacture of stringed musical instruments; members of the Amati family were making violins at the time. For the painted version, the instrument was slightly enlarged in comparison to the drawing. The inscription on the base of the column flanking King David quotes Psalm 98:3–6, but this too has been slightly changed to make it more fit for the present purpose: it exhorts to praise the Lord “with stringed instrument and organ” instead of “with stringed instrument and voice of a psalmist.”1
Boccaccino carefully constructed the architectural space inhabited by the figures with fine ruled lines and delicately applied layers of wash, creating a convincing illusion of depth. The arch behind the figures opens onto the monumental crossing of a church or a chapel resembling the ones in Santa Maria di Campagna. Light falls in from the dome at upper left, illuminating the structure in soft hues. As if charged with inner energy, the figures emerge from deep shadow in swirls of thick white heightening deftly applied for the drapery, bodily forms, and details in a manner reminiscent of Correggio and Parmigianino. The pose of Isaiah was modified significantly for the painting so that his foot extends over the ledge into the viewer’s space and the flow of drapery was simplified.
The organ shutters swung open to reveal the Annunciation, also dismantled but still on view in the choir of the church today; a brush drawing for the Virgin Annunciate is in the Art Institute of Chicago.2 A rapid sketch in red chalk for the Angel Gabriel is in the Uffizi.3 A second chalk drawing in the Uffizi has been attributed to Camillo Boccaccino and also connected with the figure of the Virgin by Hugo Chapman.4 A fifth, highly finished drawing in red chalk in the Albertina, Vienna, has occasionally been considered a study for the head of the Virgin. The attribution to [b]ocacino recorded in an old inscription on the drawing seems correct, but the connection of this last sheet to the Santa Maria di Campagna project, first proposed by Giulio Bora and supported by Jonathan Bober, is somewhat less compelling.5
- The inscription reads Viderunt omnes termini terrae salutare dei psallite. psallite in cithara et organo. See Orgelflügel 2001, 427, which refers to the psalm but does not remark on the aberration. “Et organo,” however, does appear in the unrelated Psalm 150:4.
- Art Institute of Chicago, inv. 1992.760. See McCullagh and Giles 1997, no. 39, as well as McCullagh 2012, no. 20.
- Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 8969s. See Florence 1999, no. 43.
- Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, inv. 15782F. Chapman’s thoughts were communicated to the present author and also appear in a note on the mount of a photograph of the drawing at the British Museum. A drawing in red chalk (Albertina, Vienna, inv. 2593) occasionally placed in relation to the head of the Virgin is not necessarily by Camillo in this author’s view.
- Albertina, Vienna, inv. 2593. See Cremona 1997, no. 24; Florence 1999, 87; McCullagh 2012, no. 20.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 82.
Selected references: Oakland and elsewhere 1956, no. 5; Detroit 1960, no. 36; Hagerstown 1960-61, no. 23; Staten Island 1961, no. 23; Cologne 1963-64, no. 19; New Haven 1964, no. 27; New York 1965-66, no. 83; London and elsewhere 1968, no. 12; New York 1971, no. 14; Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 83; Fellows Report 17 1976, 154; Scholz 1976, no. 36; Cremona 1985, no. 2.5.3, and under no. 1.11.2; McCullagh and Giles 1997, under no. 39; Florence 1999, under no. 44; Milan 2000-2001, under nos. VII.4 and VII.5; McCullagh 2012, under no. 20.
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. 83, repr. (includes previous bibliography and exhibitions).
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Seventeenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1972-1974. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1976, p. 154.
Scholz, Janos. Italian Master Drawings, 1350-1800, from the János Scholz Collection. New York : Dover, 1976. no. 36, repr.
Arches constructed with a compass.
Preparatory design for monumental organ shutters in San Vincenzo, Piacenza (1530).
Viggiano, Alfredo, 1884-1948, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.