Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Seated Man Holding a Drawing Board
ca. 1770-1775
Pen and brown ink over red chalk with extraneous marks in graphite.
11 5/8 x 8 1/4 inches (295 x 209 mm)
Thaw Collection.

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Illegible inscription [cut off] by the artist at left, in red chalk; computations in black chalk; inscribed at lower right, in graphite, "Guardi".

Unidentified collector, mark RC interfaced; Dr. and Mrs. Francis Springell, Keswick, Cumberland; his sale, London, Sotheby's, 28 June 1962, lot 43, repr.; private collection, London; Artemis Fine Arts Ltd., London; Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, New York.

The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection", 2017. Exh. cat., no. 293, repr.
Denison, Cara D. et al. Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Victor Thaw. Part II. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1985, no. 23.


This atypically large figure study appears to capture one of Piranesi's assistants holding a board or tablet and sketching outdoors, to judge from the man's cap and cloak. The drawing was made quickly with a thick pen, and the man's features and left arm are distorted. As is often the case in Piranesi's figure sketches, he was evidently more interested in capturing a moment of activity than in accurately depicting anatomy.
This large-scale drawing, quickly drawn with a blunt pen, is one of Piranesi's typical figure studies. The rapid, lively movements of the pen and the slight distortions of the man's features indicate that the drawing was executed in haste in order to capture the figure rather than as a careful academic study. It presumably depicts one of the artist's assistants or companions sketching outdoors, as the subject's cap and the cloak seem to suggest. -- Exhibition Label, from "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection"

Associated names: 

Springell, Francis C., former owner.
Springell, Francis C., Mrs., former owner.
Thaw, Eugene Victor, former owner.
Thaw, Clare, former owner.