Edited by Luca Fiorentino

On the left side of the composition, a group of people throng, their arms extended towards a hieratic figure who observes them while taking a few steps forward.

We should note that there is a chiaroscuro engraving by Andrea Vicentino, derived in turn from Parmigianino, with a similar, although not identical composition that may have inspired this sheet1.

Cesare Franchi (Pollino), Madonna with Child Angels and Cherubs – Albertina, Vienna
Cesare Franchi (Pollino), Madonna with Child Angels and Cherubs – Albertina, Vienna

In our view, however, the style of this drawing suggests the manner of an Umbrian artist who worked in Rome for much of his career: Cesare Franchi known as il Pollino. An illuminator and painter, as he is described by Pascoli and by Orsini, he reworked the compositions and stylistic elements of Giulio Romano on one hand (aiming for a synthesis of Raphael and Michelangelo), and on the other was influenced by Federico Barocci and certain northern Flemish artists2.

Exemplary, distinctive elements in this drawing are the rapid, sometimes furious pen strokes that become integral to the construction of anatomies and draping (which we can compare with the drawing at the Albertina in Vienna entitled Madonna with Child, Angels and Cherubs), and the carbon black washes that masterfully fill in the depths of folds or shape bodies through the use of small dabs of shadow3. The white bodycolour, slightly oxidized in a few points, lends painterly glints of light to the sheet, making it a sort of rapid preparatory sketch.

Cesare Franchi (Pollino), Cristo in Croce e Santi – Albertina, Vienna
Cesare Franchi (Pollino), Christ on the Cross with Saints – Albertina, Vienna

Also typical are the heads of the group of figures on the left, the oval barely sketched with pen and with washes in the shad- owed areas of the eyes, nose and mouth, just as we see in another sheet at the Albertina depicting Christ on the Cross and Saints4. Finally, all of his drawings incorporate a manner of rendering nude bodies with slight anatomical disproportions between bust and legs, and the navel, whether the figure is nude or in transparent robes, is always indicated by a dot of diluted ink applied with a brush.

The red prepared paper lends the whole a warm tone and accentuate the shapes of the figures in a plastic and tonal way, whether they are barely sketched, or better defined, like those in the foreground. This sheet, which exudes movement and impetus, can also be compared with a beautiful drawing from the Louvre of a Battle of Horsemen, as both drawings encapsulate the characteristics described above, demonstrating that Pollino was an artist who was truly engaged and au fait regarding all of the important innovations of his century5.

1 The Parmigianino drawing is conserved at the Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth (pen and brown ink, white bodycolour heightening on light-coloured paper, 271 x 420 mm).

2 On this artist see at least: Francesco Federico Mancini, Miniatura a Perugia tra Cinquecento e Seicento, Perugia, 1987, pp. 36-53; Bruno Toscano, Il Pollino tra Roma e Perugia, in Per Luigi Grassi, eds. Anna Forlani Tempesti and Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò, Rimini, 1998, pp. 156-167; Mario Di Giampaolo, Cesare Franchi detto il Pollino, in Nel segno di Barocci. Allievi e seguaci tra Marche, Umbria, Siena, eds. Anna Maria Ambrosini Massari and Marina Cellini, Milan, 2005, pp. 312-317.

3 The drawing is 132 x 105 mm, red chalk, pen, brown ink, heightening on brown prepared paper, Inv. N. 25382, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

4 The drawing is 177 x 132 mm, red chalk, pen, brown ink, carbon black wash on white paper, Inv. N. 23379, Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

5 The drawing is 266x211 mm, pen, brown ink, grey wash on ivory paper, Inv. N. 2731, Département des Arts Graphiques, Louvre, Paris. This magnificent sheet is from the Filippo Baldinucci collection; see: Françoise Viatte, L’oeil du connaisseur, dessins italiens du Louvre, hommage à Philip Pouncey, Paris, 1992, n. 64.

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