Edited by Luca Fiorentino

This Old Master drawing shows two distinct phases of an artist’s ordinary practice: copying from a model, in this case a sculpture depicting Apollo citharede, and the autonomous, free development of an image of his own invention, in this case an exceptional Bacchus with grapevine leaves on his forehead and a rod in his hand.

There are numerous examples of the efforts of the Alberti family workshop (Cherubino, Alessandro and Giovanni) in Italian art institutions, which conserve several albums of drawings, one at the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe of the Uffizi, and three at the Istituto Centrale per la grafica di Roma1. These extensive resources allow us to compare and comprehend the systemic way in which the workshop operated; in fact, there are many copies of famous sculptures and prints, friezes and capitals, frescoes and drawings by other masters.

The drawing we have here can be compared to many sheets from the above-mentioned public collections, and shows the skill and quickness of the artists’ creative hand, as well as the scrupulous attention to detail with which they immortalised any object that might capture their attention as they wandered around Rome.

After a rapid, lightly sketched outline in black chalk, the artist, in this case identified not as Cherubino but rather his brother Giovanni, made deft use of the pen and the brush: on the right side we can see that he was copying the figure of the Apollo Citharede, as evidenced by a certain hesitation or indecision, and by his careful attention to light and reflections, as well as the base of the figure.

The Bacchus on the left, on the other hand, possesses much greater expressive energy, springing from the efficaciousness of the natural, impetuous creative gesture with which his hand followed an instinct rather than an existing model of a figure.

The sheet can be dated to a short time before Cherubino and Giovanni’s arrival in Rome (1578), a period in which inventio and studio must have been equally important elements that led Giovanni to obtain important commissions in successive years, like the fresco decoration of the Sala Clementina (with Cherubino, 1597-98) and San Giovanni in Laterano (again in collaboration with his older brother).

1 The volume in the GDS Uffizi is catalogued under the name Cherubino Alberti, Inv. n. 93695 (the entry for the volume published on EUPLOS is by Chiara Cassinelli). See also, on the sketchbooks and specifically on this artist:

Catherine Monbeig Goguel, Gherardi senza Vasari, in ‘Arte illustrata’, V, 1972, pp. 130-142 in particular p. 136 note 60; Kristina Herrmann Fiore, Disegno and ‘Giuditio’, allegorical drawings by Federico Zuccaro and Cherubino Alberti, in ‘Master drawings’, 20, 1982, pp. 247- 256;

Kristina Herrmann Fiore, Disegni degli Alberti. Volume 2503 of the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, exhibition catalogue, Rome, Gabinetto Nazionale delle stampe, 25 November 1983-2 January 1984, Rome, 1983, in particular: pp. 7-15 and entries 39, 62, 112, 131, 142;

Jessica Corsi, Nuovo aggiunte al ‘corpus’ di disegni di Cristoforo Gherardi detto il Doceno, in ‘Polittico’, 5, 2008, pp. 53-61; Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò, Un tacuino di Cherubino Alberti all’Oliveriana di Pesaro, in ‘Atti e Studi. Accademia Raffaello’, 2, 2004, pp. 27-38;

Giovanna Sapori, Da Giovanni e Cherubino Alberti a Perino del Vaga. Appunti sugli studi conquecenteschi by Maria Vittoria Brugnoli, in Maria Vittoria Brugnoli storica dell’arte, funzionaria dell’amministrazione dei beni culturali e docente universitaria, Atti della giornata di studio in ricordo di Maria Vittoria Brugnoli (Rome, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici 15 April 2015), eds. Enzo Borsellino and Federica Papi, Rome, 2017, pp. 29-39.

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