Inscribed on a tablet held by putto, in red chalk, "AMOR DEI"; on verso at upper center, in pen and black ink, "Michel Angli: ̊Bona Rotta"; just below, in red chalk, "Michel Angi. B.F. / Roma"; at lower right, in black chalk, various numbers.
Watermark: Fleur-de-lis in a circle (cf. Briquet 6895: Pisa, 1543).
Although born in a hamlet some sixty kilometers north of Milan, Tibaldi was raised in Bologna, where he spent his formative years as an artist. He transferred to Rome probably in 1547 and there assisted Perino del Vaga on frescoes in the Castel Sant’Angelo, continuing work in the Sala Paolina even after Perino’s death in October 1547.1 In Rome Tibaldi also worked for the Bolognese Cardinal Giovanni Poggi (1493–1556), and, once back in Bologna, he executed decorative cycles in the Poggi palace as well as scenes of the life of John the Baptist in the family chapel at the church of San Giacomo Maggiore. The innovative Palazzo Poggi frescoes of ca. 1550, which tell the story of the Greek hero Ulysses across two ceilings, are without question the finest pictorial achievement of Tibaldi’s career.
While in the Fairfax Murray collection, this drawing was attributed to Daniele da Volterra, an attribution perfectly understandable when one compares the sheet with Daniele’s own studies (see, for example, 2001.39), which depict similarly strong-limbed figures with a delicate application of chalk. According to a note in the departmental file A. E. Popham recognized the sheet as by Tibaldi in 1958.
It relates primarily to one of the four strongly foreshortened, muscular figures in animated poses seated on an architrave that occupies the corners of the vault of the larger of the two Ulysses rooms in the Palazzo Poggi. Like the ignudi of Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling—a series of twenty male nudes in a variety of poses painted in the years 1508 to 1512—Tibaldi’s figures have given rise to diverse interpretations. They were seen as angels, wind gods, or fictive viewers affected by the horrors of the ceiling’s central scene. The putto holding a tablet inscribed Amor Dei (Love of God), lightly sketched in at the upper left of the present drawing, suggests that at least at an early stage in the development of the scheme, Tibaldi’s ignudi were intended as allegories.2
Vittoria Romani’s description of the study as a sibyl, and the suggestion that the drawing may have been a study for the vault of the Fantetti chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore, Bologna—lost, but described by Malvasia as “le quattro famosissime Sibille a fresco, tanto osservate, anzi studiate da gl’affaticatissimi Carracci”—seems unlikely.3 Sibyls were usually depicted fully clothed. In addition, the figure looks male and corresponds closely to frescoes in the Palazzo Poggi. The lower half of the figure in particular is almost identical in drawing and fresco, although the Mannerist elements have been pushed even further for the painted version. The sotto in su perspective has been exaggerated, the figure—almost doubled over—is more strongly contorted, the knee is raised higher, and the darkened sole of the other, dangling, foot is almost entirely visible. Lastly, whereas in the drawing the loins are covered, in the fresco the drapery only serves as a wind-filled backdrop to the figure, leaving an unapologetically clear view of the genitals.
Tibaldi reused the upper half of the figure for the sea nymph in the fresco Ino Rescuing Ulysses by Giving Him Her Veil in the smaller of the two rooms.4 There, Ulysses is seen lying prone on the broken plank that was the sole remnant of the sailing boat destroyed by his enemy Neptune, clutching the unsinkable veil which was to save him.
A series of similar highly wrought figure studies attests to Tibaldi’s careful preparation of the Palazzo Poggi frescoes. These include the study of a seated young man in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen5 and one for Aeolus in the Metropolitan Museum in New York,6 both in red chalk, and, in black chalk, a study for Polyphemus in the Kunsthalle Hamburg.7 A fine drawing in red chalk of a seated female in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon has also been associated with the frescoes.8
- Vasari states that Tibaldi “went in the year 1547 to Rome, where he occupied himself until the year 1550.” See Vasari 1996, 2:776; Vasari 1878–85, 7:416. The first record of his presence in Rome, however, is a payment of November 1549.
- For a thorough discussion of the meaning of the Palazzo Poggi ignudi, see Kiefer 2000, 223–88.
- Malvasia 1969, 42 (52:3), cited by Romani 1997, 47.
- Briganti 1945, fig. 126.
- Inv. kks11160. See Gere 1971, 82, pl. XI; see also Fortunati Pietrantonio 1986, 2:521.
- Inv. 2007.127.
- Inv. 21297. See Hamburg 1997, no. 58.
- Inv. ca t 189. See Romani 1997, pl. X; Guil- laume 2004, no. 350.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 108.
Selected references: Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 4: no. 27; Cambridge 1962, no. 37; New York 1965-66, no. 121; Romani 1997, 47, pl. VIII, fig. 55.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, IV, 27, repr.
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. 70-71, no. 121, repr.
Formerly attributed to Daniele da Volterra and Enea Salmeggia.
Daniele, da Volterra, approximately 1509-1566, Formerly attributed to.
Salmeggia, Enea, approximately 1565-1626, Formerly attributed to.
Bouverie, Edward, 1767-1858, former owner.
Adolphus Frederick, Prince, Duke of Cambridge, 1774-1850, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.