Lelio Orsi


The heroic sun god Apollo drives his four- horse chariot while Aurora, goddess of the dawn, strews flowers in his path, announcing his—and the new day’s—arrival. Orsi’s drawing is a final preparatory sketch for an illusionistic fresco (now lost) that once adorned the clock tower in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia. Orsi was so successful in suggesting the god’s powerful forward motion that Apollo looks as if he might fly from his chariot and out of the picture frame. The design was meant to be seen from below, which explains the slightly distorted perspective.

Lelio Orsi
Italian, 1511–1587
Apollo driving the chariot of the sun, ca. 1544–45
Pen and black ink, with brush and brown wash, heightened with white opaque watercolor, with incising, on paper prepared with a light- brown wash
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.855
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Art Institute of Chicago Imaging Department