Orazio Samacchini

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Orazio Samacchini
Seated Prophet with Angel and Two Putti
Pen and brown ink and wash on laid paper.
10 1/8 x 15 5/8 inches (252 x 396 mm)
Gift of János Scholz.

Inscribed at lower left in black chalk (illegible).

Dukes of Savoy, Aosta, Turin (Lugt S. 47a), and by descent to Tommaso Alberto Vittorio di Savoia-Genova (1854-1931), 12th Duke of Genova, Turin (L. 47a); Antonio Abrate (1834-1925), Turin, by 1881; Ernesto Bertarelli (1873-1957), Milan; possibly Francis Matthiesen (1898-1963), Geneva and London, by 1940; purchased in Turin in 1951 by János Scholz, New York (1903-1993; no mark; see Lugt S. 2933b)

The unenthusiastic account of Samacchini’s life in Cesare Malvasia’s Felsina pittrice is most certainly one of the principal reasons for the unjust exclusion of the painter from the pantheon of Bolognese artists. It was not until recently that Samacchini was recognized as one of the protagonists of the artistic scene in Bologna, and even though his painting oeuvre has today been extensively illustrated, the corpus of his drawings awaits further study.

The only example of Samacchini’s draftsmanship at the Morgan, Seated Prophet with Angel and Two Putti is one of his latest drawings, made as a preparatory study for the figure of a prophet in San Abbondio in Cremona. In 1575, shortly after having completed what is generally considered one of his masterpieces, the Magnani chapel in San Giacomo Maggiore in Bologna, Samacchini was given the commission to paint the vault in the nave of the Cremonese church, which he probably completed no later than 1576.1 Divided by an elaborate framework, the vault displays a variety of figures and allegorical representations, including an Annunciation, the cardinal and the theological virtues, putti, and prophets.

Philip Pouncey was the first to connect the Morgan’s study to the fresco, also linking it to two further drawings of prophets at the Louvre and at the Albertina.2 The Louvre sheet, finely drawn in black chalk—a technique that Samacchini used as an alternative to his favored pen and ink—exhibits a high degree of finish, suggesting that the sheet was conceived as a final design for one of the figures of the prophets. The study, however, was eventually abandoned; none of the prophets of San Abbondio corresponds directly to the Louvre sheet. The Albertina drawing is almost identical in technique and size to the Morgan’s, but its uneven quality and the stiffness of the contour lines indicate that it was almost certainly made by a member of Samacchini’s workshop after a lost original study by the master.3

Seen di sotto in su, with his leg dangling off the pediment on which he is sitting, Sammachini’s prophet reveals the admiration of the artist for Pellegrino Tibaldi. In fact, the four majestic ignudi frescoes by Tibaldi in the corners of the Sala di Ulisse at Palazzo Poggi completed in 1551–56 (see IV, 27) served as the primary inspiration for Samacchini’s prophet. Tibaldi played a pivotal role in the diffusion of Michelangelo’s monumental style in Bologna, a figural vocabulary that Samacchini absorbed during his early career and reinforced during his ca. 1563–64 stay in Rome. Distinctive Michelangelesque motifs recur in his frescoes on the ceiling of Palazzo Vizzani in Bologna (ca. 1575) and in the decoration of San Abbondio. It is not accidental that Luigi Lanzi, describing Samacchini’s frescoes in Cremona, remarked that in the vault of the church “campeggia il grande e il terribile” (“the great and the terrible are manifest”),4 a sentiment that critics have generally expressed for Michelangelo’s own invenzioni.



  1. Samacchini’s signature (HORATIUS SAMACCHINUS BON. FACIEBAT) appears under the painting of the lunette in the first bay of the nave. Documents suggest that Samacchini completed the decoration of the church before July 1575. See Winkelmann in Fortunati Pietrantonio 1986, 643.
  2. Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. 10243. Albertina, Vienna, inv. 1966.
  3. Catherine Johnson pointed out that Samacchini’s assistants copied the master’s drawings and “worked up designs that he then corrected or improved upon.” See Ottawa 1982, no. 14.
  4. Lanzi 1809, 5:52.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 119.
Selected references: Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 49; Cleveland 1981, no. 94; Ottawa 1982, no. 15; Cremona 1985, under no. 2.15; Fortunati Pietrantonio 1986, 2:643; Stanzani 1990, 74; Paris 1992, under no. 61.
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, 1973-19, no. 49, repr.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twentieth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981-1983. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984, p. 297.


Watermark: none visible through lining.

Associated names: 

Savoia-Genova, Tommaso di, 1854-1931, former owner.
Abrate, Antonio, 1834-1925, former owner.
Bertarelli, Ernesto, 1873- former owner.
Matthiesen, Francis, 1897-1963, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.

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