Taddeo Zuccaro

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Taddeo Zuccaro
Group of Seven Women, One Holding a Dagger, and a Bull on a Mountain (Scene of Sacrifice?). Verso: Figure Studies (A Myriad of Small Figures and a Horseman, or Perhaps a Centaur)
ca. 1550-1560
Pen and brown ink and wash, over black chalk, on paper. Verso: Pen and brown ink and black chalk.
10 7/8 x 15 1/4 inches (278 x 388 mm)
Gift of János Scholz.

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Verso: figure sketches, in pen and brown ink, and black chalk.

Edme Durand (?) (Lugt Suppl. 841) Konstantinoff, Paris; Émile Diaz (1835-1860), Paris (Lugt 841); from whom purchased in 1948 by János Scholz (1903-1993), New York (no mark; see Lugt 2933b).

Once given to the Florentine painter Giovanni Battista Naldini, the drawing was first attributed to Taddeo Zuccaro by Philip Pouncey in 1958 (note in departmental file). John Gere dated the sheet to around 1560, but Konrad Oberhuber and Dean Walker pointed out that it might be dated slightly earlier since the subject matter and frieze-like arrangement are reminiscent of Taddeo’s designs for façades from the 1550s.1

The drawing, however, which shows a young woman bearing a dagger, guided by an older woman and accompanied by five further women, approaching a small image of a bull, remains unrelated to any known work by Taddeo Zuccaro. In the upper left corner, possibly unrelated to the main image, are two standing figures (one [a woman?] holding a shield and the other a pike) in a painting or niche, seen from below and observed by a man with his back turned to the viewer

No satisfactory explanation for the strange subject matter has been proposed. Suggestions have included an episode from the apocryphal legend of Judith of Bethulia 2 or that of Iphigenia saved from being sacrificed by the miraculous substitution of a heifer (Erwin Panofsky, letter of 1959 to Janos Scholz), an obscure bacchic ritual involving the castration of a calf by women,3 and the Egyptian myth of Io-Isis and the Bull, Apis.4 The unusual perspective and loose, thin pen line contribute to the mysterious, otherworldly quality of the drawing while the brown wash and solid forms of the high-waisted, full-hipped women ground the work in three-dimensional space.


  1. Gere 1969, 180, no. 148; Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 5.
  2. Indianapolis 1954, no. 21.
  3. Milwaukee 1989-90, 112-13, no. 26.
  4. Acidini Luchinat 1998-99, 1: 130.

Selected references: Indianapolis 1954, no. 21 (as Naldini); Gere 1969, 180, no. 148; Fellows Report 1976, 187; Washington and New York 1973-74, no. 5; Milwaukee 1989-90, 112-13, no. 26; Acidini Luchinat 1998-99, 1: 130, 135, note 111; Brooks 2007, 53-54, no. 43.
Robert O. Parks, Pontormo to Greco, The Age of Mannerism: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings of the Century 1520-1620, exh. cat., John Herron Art Museum, Indianapolis, 1954, no. 21, repr. (Naldini; subject as Judith).
John A. Gere, Taddeo Zuccaro. His Development Studied in his Drawings, London, 1969, p. 180, no. 148 (Taddeo Zuccaro, ca. 1560).
Charles Ryskamp, ed., Seventeenth Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library 1972-1974, New York, 1976, p. 187.
Konrad Oberhuber and Dean Walker, Sixteenth Century Italian Drawings From the Collection of János Scholz, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, 1973-1974, no. 5 (Taddeo Zuccaro).
E. James Mundy, Renaissance into Baroque: Italian Master Drawings by the Zuccari 1550-1600, exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, and the National Academy of Design, New York, 1989-90, pp. 112-13, no. 26, repr. (p. 31, repr. in color).
Cristina Acidini Luchinat, Taddeo e Federico Zuccari, fratelli pittori del Cenquecento, 2 vols., Milan and Rome, 1998-1999, vol. 1, pp. 130, 135 n. 111, fig. 57 (ca. 1560).
Julian Brooks, Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro: Artist-Brothers in Renaissance Rome, exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2007, pp. 53-54, no. 43, repr.
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. 5 (includes full bibliography and exhibitions).


Watermark: none.

Associated names: 

Naldini, Giovanni Battista, 1537-1591, Formerly attributed to.
Durand, Edme, -1835, former owner.
Diaz, Émile, 1835-1860, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.

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