Edited by Luca Fiorentino

Artists often have the habit of working “a risparmio”, i.e. using the paint-saving technique of allowing the underlying support itself to take on the task of providing color and thus playing a fundamental role at the formal level.

With light-coloured paper, for example, they ‘save themselves’ the trouble of having to apply light coloured paints, since the paper itself makes up the light elements. In the case of colorued paper, often light-blue as in this case, the background becomes structural as well, as it lends depth of field to the representation, while at the same time playing a determinant role in the composition of chiaroscuro and half tones by means of the opportune use of white lead.

This drawing is a consummate demonstration of all of the aforementioned technical and stylistic characteristics. We see, for example, in the figure of the risen Christ, how careful the artist was to leave more space to emptiness, to accentuate the suffused, spreading light expressed solely by the bare paper, and at the same time used light touches of white lead, applied with a brush, on the clouds under the Redeemer’s feet, where the chiaroscuro is more intense. For the sleepy, astonished and frightened soldiers, on the other hand, the artist was more decisive, using white lead freely to delineate gleaming armour and clothing, while the light-blue paper serves to create the chiaroscuro of the shadows, delicately tempered by watercoloring.

The melting pot of artists working in the Roman Urbe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries often make correct attribution and collocation of surviving drawings difficult. While in some respects this sheet recalls the style of the entourage of Cavalier d’Arpino (Arpino 1568 – Rome 1640), there are also stylistic allusions to sheets by Bernardo Castello (Genoa 1557 – 1629) during his long Roman sojourn. Regarding the latter artist, in my opinion we should compare the sheet depicting The Martyrdom of Santo Stefano conserved in the Drawing and Print Collection of the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, and others attributed to the artist in recent publications1.

In addition to the technical-stylistic correspondence, the Venetian sheet is comparable to the one in question in terms of specific similarities in types of faces and in the construction of anatomies (see the pointed noses, the empty orbital cavities of the eyes, the elongated hands with pointed fingers).

1 The drawing held at the Accademia in Venice is attributed to Castello in: Da Luca Cambiaso a Domenico Piola. Disegni genovesi dell’Accademia di Venezia, curator Luca Leoncini, catalogue edited by Ezia Gavazza, Lauro Magnani, Giovanna Rotondi Terminiello, Genoa, Palazzo Reale, Teatro del Falcone 13 April – 8 July 2007, Milan, 2007, entry on Bernardo Castello n. 28 p. 90.

On a few drawings recently attributed to the artist see also: Linee, lumi et ombre finite. Disegni dei maestri genovesi tra 500 e 700, Novi Ligure, Museo dei Campionissimi 5 March – 12 June 2016, curators Valentina Frascarolo and Chiara Vignola, Novi Ligure, 2016.

This drawing should also be compared with one in the Drawing and Print Collection of the Louvre, pointed out to me by Valentina Frascarolo, published in: Federica Mancini, Dessins Gènois XVIe-XVIIIe, Musèe du Louvre, Dèpartement des Arts Graphiques, Inventaire Gènèral des dessins italiens, Tome XI, Paris, 2017, entry 40, Atelier di Semino, Le nozze di Cana, black chalk, pen, brown ink, brown acquarellature, white bodycolour heightening on light- blue paper 341 x 495 mm (Inv. 10093). In the entry, the writer associates the drawing with the circle of Andrea Semino, but admits that from a stylistic point of view it strongly suggests the style of Bernardo Castello.

Related Art