Inscribed at upper left edge, in pen and brown ink, "del rufo?"; at upper right, in pen and brown ink, "Squarcione".
The man in ragged clothes, carrying on his shoulders a bundle of branches and fruit, was drawn in pen and brown ink over a faint sketch in black chalk that is now barely visible, on paper prepared with a red chalk wash. The technique of this work is similar to that used by artists active in northern Italy during the second half of the fifteenth century, among them Marco Zoppo, the artist to whom the Morgan composition has been ascribed by several scholars.1
The drawing had already become a collector’s item by the beginning of the sixteenth century, when it was included in the so-called Badile album. The album, dismantled and dispersed in the twentieth century, is one of the oldest known collections of drawings assembled in Italy during the Renaissance.2 The Veronese painter Antonio II Badile had apparently gathered together the core of the collection, comprising drawings mainly by artists active in the Veneto, from Verona, Padua, and Venice. After Antonio II’s death, his heirs added more sheets to the collection and pasted them onto the blue-paper pages of the album.3
The Morgan drawing bears two inscriptions in pen and ink just below the upper margin: a faint one toward the right, presumably the older of the two, reads Squarcione, and a second, more clearly visible, at the center reads del rufo.4 The handwriting of the latter is consistent with that of inscriptions found on other sheets once included in the Badile album, although it is not certain who among Antonio II Badile’s descendants wrote them.5 The presence of the two inscriptions on the Morgan sheet reveals the uncertainty about the attribution of the drawing even soon after it was made. This fact, together with stylistic considerations, makes it difficult to believe that the drawing was executed by Marco Zoppo, a well-known artist in his lifetime who was presumably still remembered in the decades immediately following his death.6 Zoppo was originally from the small town of Cento, between Bologna and Ferrara, but by 1453 he had moved to Padua, where he was adopted by the painter Francesco Squarcione. During his brief stay in Padua, Zoppo became a friend of Andrea Mantegna and made the acquaintance of other artists, humanists, and patrons of the time.7 Mantegna’s drawing style, in which volumes are created through tight parallel hatching, influenced Zoppo’s own graphic manner and that of other contemporary draftsmen active in northern Italy. The Morgan sheet should be attributed to one of these artists, although it is not clear which one.
A second drawing from the Badile album, now in a private collection, bears the same inscription—del rufo—as the present one.8 It has been suggested that Rufo might have been the last name of a Veronese painter, perhaps someone related to the Badile family, yet no documents survive to attest to the existence of an artist of that name. The fact that the two drawings from the Badile album bearing the inscription del rufo appear to be by two different hands undermines the value of the attribution.9 Other drawings formerly included in the Badile album bear handwritten attributions to different artists; while some of these inscriptions have proven correct, the reliability of others is less certain.10
The Morgan drawing is, however, closely related to another sheet, a drawing in the National Gallery of Scotland representing A Pilgrim Plucking a Gourd from a Tree (inv. rsa 259) that was once attributed to Bernardo Parentino.11 The two drawings, clearly executed by the same hand, must have been separated not long after their creation, for the sheet in Scotland never entered the Badile collection.12 Not only do the two works share the same technique and have roughly the same dimensions, but their subject matters, when considered together, form an interesting narrative.13 In the drawing in Edinburgh the farmer, or peasant, barefoot and in tattered contemporary clothes, is depicted in front of a tree touching a fruit, presumably checking its ripeness. A knife and a hand scythe are propped against a rock next to him, and he is holding a stick. In the Morgan drawing, the man, after having taken off his cape, has cut down the tree and the vines and is carrying everything away in a bundle on his shoulders. Now, a water flask is on the ground by a rock.
While figures of farmers and peasants with their knees protruding through ragged trousers were recurrent imagery in paintings, illuminations, and sculptures in northern Italy at the time, it is difficult to understand fully the meaning and iconography of the two drawings. The two compositions have been interpreted as representations of the activities of rural life—yet, when considered together as a sequence, the two sheets seem to illustrate an anecdote, perhaps a proverbial or allegorical narrative that was clearly recognizable to the artist’s audience in the fifteenth century but is mysterious for viewers today.14 —GD
- Janos Scholz, the former owner of the drawing, was the first to attribute it to Zoppo. In an unpublished letter to Francis Matthiesen in January 1959, when Scholz was acquiring the drawing from the dealer, the collector wrote: “As for the wood carrying man, it comes no doubt out of the same school. I noticed also the old Squarcione inscription on it which would be indicative again, because it is almost of the same time as the drawing. I connect the sheet with a group of engravings given to Giovanni da Brescia, but even more with the kind of drawings the critics usually give to Marco Zoppo or his following. . . .” A few weeks later, Matthiesen replied: “What you say about your tentative attribution of the wood-carrying man to Marco Zoppo or his following is very important to me, because it was my idea originally, but I never followed it up by close comparison.” Scholz Correspondence Archive, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. See also New York 1959, no. 5.
- On the Badile album, see Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010 and more recently Karet 2014 and Karet 2018.
- According to some scholars, Antonio II Badile’s grandson, Antonio III Badile, was responsible for assembling the album; others believe instead that it was one of Antonio II’s two sons, either Bartolomeo III or Francesco II. For these divergent opinions on the formation of the album, see Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010, 3:27–31, and Karet 2014, 5–7.
- It has been suggested that the inscription Squarcione is by a fifteenth-century hand and predates the second inscription.
- For different opinions about the authorship of the inscriptions, see Wagini in Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010, 3:31–34, and Karet 2014, 5–6.
- Recent research on autograph works by Zoppo has deepened our knowledge of the artist’s graphic style; see London 1998. I wish to thank Hugo Chapman for sharing his comments and suggestions about this drawing, which he does not believe to be by Zoppo but rather by a less prominent artist active in the circle of Andrea Mantegna during the last quarter of the fifteenth century.
- For Zoppo’s biography, see London 1998, 11–34.
- The drawing, representing Two Peasants or Beggars, is in a private collection in New York. The sheet is related to a print of the same subject which has been attributed to Giovanni Antonio da Brescia. For this second drawing, see Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010, 3: no. 799, and Karet 2014, 92. For the inscription del rufo, see also L. 2990e.
- On the possibility that Rufo was an artist, see Rossi 2010, 443–44, who explains how Antonio II Badile’s second wife was Dorotea Ruffi. For documents concerning Dorotea, see Degenhardt and Schmitt 1968–2010, 3:341–44.
- On the drawings attributed to the Artemio inscribed on some of the Badile sheets, see Rossi 2010, 439–59.
- Published as attributed to Bernardo Parentino in Andrews 1968, 87, and more recently as by Marco Zoppo in Degenhardt and Schmitt 1968–2010, 3:96–99, no. 790. I wish to thank Aidan Weston-Lewis for sending me information about this drawing and for sharing his opinion that the sheet is by neither Parentino nor Zoppo.
- The sheet in Edinburgh does not come from the Badile album. It bears the later collector’s mark of Nathaniel Hone (1718–1784); see L. 2793.
- The sheet in Scotland is inscribed Mantegna and bears a watermark that is unfortunately very difficult to see.
- The plant represented in the drawings appears to be a vine, and the fruit are shaped like gourds. Gourds had many symbolic meanings during the Renaissance in both the religious and secular spheres.
Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 10.
Selected references: New York 1959, no. 5; Oakland and San Francisco 1959, no. 81; Detroit 1960, no. 15; Scholz 1960, 229; Mantua 1961, no. 133; Longhi 1962, 21; Cologne 1963-64, no. 176; New Haven 1964, no. 18; Ruhmer 1966, no. 4; Los Angeles and Seattle 1967, no. 61; Andrews 1968, 1:87; Degenhart and Schmitt 1968-2010, 3: no. 790; London and elsewhere 1968, no. 110; New York 1971, no. 98; Levenson, Oberhuber, and Sheehan 1973, 232; Armstrong 1976, no. D.15; Montgomery 1976, no. 5; Scholz 1976, no. 7; Notre Dame 1980, no. 132; Fellows Report 19 1981, 223; Vienna and Budapest 1988- 89, no. 4; Schulze Altcappenberg 1995, 75; Weimar 1999, under no. 1; Karet and Windows 2005, 34-35, no. 9r/1; Rossi 2010, 444; Karet 2014, 9-10, 19; Karet 2018, 22.
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Nineteenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1978-1980. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1981, p. 223.
Venetian Drawings from the Collection of János Scholz. Montgomery, Ala. : Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 1976, no. 5, repr. (includes previous bibliography and exhibitions).
Scholz, Italian Master Drawings, 1976, no. 7, repr.
Scholz, Notre Dame, 1980, no. 132.
Formerly attributed to Marco Zoppo, Cento 1432/3-1478 Venice; Bernardo Parentino, ca. 1437-1531.
Zoppo, Marco, 1433-1478, Formerly attributed to.
Parenzano, Bernardo, 1437-1531, Formerly attributed to.
Badile, Antonio, former owner.
Badile, Antonio, 1518-1560, former owner.
Calceolari, marquis de, former owner.
Moscardo, Lodovico, 1611-1681, former owner.
Miniscalchi, Teresa Moscardo, former owner.
Miniscalchi-Erizzo, Mario, 1881-1957, former owner.
Matthiesen, Francis, 1897-1963, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.