Inscribed on verso of lining, in pen and brown ink, "S.V. n:̊ 10".
The identity of the author of these two small red chalk head studies, Lombard painter Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, is a rather recent discovery. Indeed, it was only in 1912 that Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri connected Giovanni Agostino to a series of paintings that were until then grouped under the rather generic denomination of pseudo-Boccaccino.1 Since then, the catalogue of paintings by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi has been defined, and a limited—but fairly coherent—group of drawings has been ascribed to the artist.
Although documents and inscriptions repeatedly record Giovanni Agostino as being from Lodi, near Milan, very little is known of his early years in Lombardy. Furthermore, as no work of his exists from after 1524, when the plague struck Milan, it has been suggested that he, like many other Lombard artists, succumbed to the epidemic.2 Consequently, the chronology of his oeuvre, and thus a precise reconstruction of his character, remains patchy. We do know that Giovanni Agostino broke up his long stay in Venice, where he is documented during the last quarter of the fifteenth century, with frequent trips to Milan, where he settled after 1510.3
The majority of Giovanni Agostino’s drawings—mostly executed in red chalk—are with few exceptions studies of heads, made probably as small modelli to build up a repertoire of types rather than preparatory drawings for specific paintings.4 Together with the slightly later Head of a Woman Wearing a Veil (IV, 34), also at the Morgan, the two red chalk Heads represent typical examples of the artist’s manner around the turn of the century, when he had just returned to Venice after a brief sojourn in Milan in 1499.3 Here Giovanni Agostino had access to Leonardo’s masterpiece, the Last Supper, in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie (1493–98) and, probably, to the master’s numerous studies for the Apostles’ heads. Both the painting and its preparatory drawings seem to represent the primary sources for the Morgan’s sheets as well as for the figures of the artist’s Washing of the Feet (with which the Head of a Bearded Man has often been associated),6 painted in 1500, immediately after his return to Venice.
The Morgan’s head studies demonstrate an evident kinship with some of Giovanni Agostino’s earliest drawings, such as the Allegory of Prudence in a private collection or the Half Length Study of a Young Boy in Three-Quarter View in the Louvre, and document the artist’s familiarity with Leonardo’s motifs and drawing techniques. Indeed, these two drawings echo the master’s artistic investigation of naturalistic tonal effects through sfumato, almost totally avoiding line by rubbing the grain of the chalk onto the paper. The compressed features that characterize the Morgan’s heads and the extremely pictorial quality of the red chalk—especially in the soft, rather vaporous consistency of the man’s beard and the young man’s hair—also reflect Giovanni Agostino’s familiarity with Venetian art and in particular with the late work of Giovanni Bellini and the early production of Giorgione. If Leonardo’s brief sojourn in the Laguna in 1500 surely benefitted Bellini and Giorgione, Giovanni Agostino’s prolonged presence in Venice provided local painters with enduring contact with the Leonardesque artistic culture with which he was in regular dialogue until his definitive return to Lombardy in the mid-1510s.
- Malaguzzi Valeri 1912.
- Florio 1998, 58.
- Giovanni Agostino was recorded in Venice in 1492, when he signed the contract for the Boatmen’s Altarpiece (Pala dei baracaroli; now in the church of San Pietro Martire, Murano), and again in 1504, when one of his paintings was acquired by Giovanni Paolo Averoldi, a nobleman from Brescia. In 1510, and again in 1511, he was in Milan. See Simonetto 2001, 272.
- Other drawings by Giovanni Agostino are conserved in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin: David with the Head of Goliath (KdZ 1543); Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA: Head of a Smiling Youth (inv. 1965.393); Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth: Bust of a Man Seen in Profile (inv. 706); Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden: Bust of a Man with Curly Hair (inv. C 1923-14); British Museum, London: A Curly-Haired Man with His Eyes Shut Tight (as attributed to; inv. 1895,0915.481) and Head of a Man in Profile to the Right (inv. 1859,0806.76); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles: St. John the Baptist (inv. 90.GB.116); Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan: Heads of Two Boys (Cod. F. 263 inf. 39), Portrait of a Girl (Cod. F. 274 inf. 4), A Man Seen in Profile and Turned Left (Cod. F. 274 inf. 6), and A Man Seen in Profile and Turned Right (Cod. F. 263 inf. 52); Biblioteca Trivulziana, Milan: Two Male Heads; Castello Sforzesco, Milan: Head of a Man (inv. Sc. B. 36); Musée du Louvre, Paris: Bust of a Youth (inv. 2252), A Man Seen in Profile (inv. 2572), Head of a Young Boy (inv. 2578), and A Man Seen in Profile Looking Left (inv. 9863); Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes: An Angel (inv. 794.1.3035); Collection Jean Bonna, Geneva: Bust of a Man Looking Up; and Mrs. A. Alfred Taubman collection, New York: Allegory of Prudence; Christie’s, London, 5 July 2011, lot 5.
- See Bora et al. 1998, 259. It has been suggested that Giovanni Agostino, along with other pupils of Leonardo, accompanied the master during his trip to Venice in 1500. See Bora et al. 1998, 260.
- The painting, dated at bottom left, probably decorated a chapel at the Scuola del Sacramento. It is today in the collection of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, inv. 90.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 47.
Selected references: Bloomington and elsewhere 1958, nos. 6 and 7; Detroit 1960, no. 28 (Head of a Youth Facing Left); Staten Island 1961, no. 5 (Head of a Youth Facing Left); Cologne 1963-64, nos. 86 and 87; New Haven 1964, nos. 5 and 6; New York 1971, no. 50 (Head of a Bearded Man in Profile to the Right); Washington and New York 1973-74, 77-79, no. 65; New York 1974, 45; Lawrence 1986, no. 8; Milan 1987-88, under nos. 30 and 31; Simonetto 1988, 74; Rennes 1990, 32-33, under no. 10; Venice 1992, 372, under no. 79; Pedretti and Trutty-Coohill 1993, 76, no. 37; Bora et al. 1998, 110; Venice 1999a, 104, under no. 33; Simonetto 2001, 275.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Seventeenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1972-1974. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1976, p. 172.
Stampfle, Felice, and Jacob Bean. Drawings from New York collections. I: The Italian Renaissance. New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1965.
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. 65, repr. (includes previous bibliography and exhibitions).
Sagredo-Borghese, former owner.
Sagredo, Zaccaria, 1653-1729, former owner.
Marignane, Maurice, 1879-1956, former owner.
Marignane, H. de (Hubert), former owner.
Calmann, Hans M., 1899-1982, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.