MASTER DRAWINGS IN NEW YORK 2019
Exhibiting at the Kraushaar galleries
15 east 71st street, suite 2b, nyc
Preview (vernissage), January 25, 4-8pm
Transformations, our focus for MDNY 2019, explores drawings depicting narratives that hold emotional weight, in which transformation hangs in the balance. The exhibit also illustrates ways we have been transformed through a commitment to fuller understanding of works in our keeping. Such understanding can only be brought about through the grace of interactions with those committed to the evolving discipline of Art History. We cannot stress enough our appreciation for, and admiration of, these professionals who go about their work day-by-day, without a lot of fanfare, in museums, institutions of higher learning, and art galleries. Through our correspondence with them we are given new eyes and a better understanding of history. Consequently, our lives are transformed! We dedicate this exhibition to them, and we’re grateful to those quoted below for the privilege of publishing their words and observations. Our move from Lois Wagner Fine Arts to the Kraushaar Galleries affords an unusual opportunity to see how works are transformed by the space in which they hang. Finally, we have given thought to how various works are transformed as viewed over time through the filter of the personal emotional landscape of the moment. Life is change. Those visiting us can expect to see works by Bernardino Mei, Carlo Bononi, Paolo de Matteis, Aureliano Milani, Pietro Antonio Novelli, Ubaldo Gandolfi, Charles-Joseph Natoire, Bernard Picart, as well as others not so fully understood. Below is a visual introduction to our exhibition. Look, and feel free to contact us for further information about size, medium, provenance, or price.
From the book of Acts: 8-26: "Now an angel said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone down to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me.”
The subject of this drawing was identified by Simona Carotenuto, according to Professor Alberto Pavone, who wrote that in this drawing Matteis exhibits the influence of his teacher Luca Giordano. “The composition and poses of the subjects are reminiscent of the fresco cycles by Matteis in the church of San Francesco Saverio (now San Ferdinando) in Naples, particularly St. Francis Xavier Preaching to the Heathens, where one can find a similar pose, with the arm raised upward and a smile expressing satisfaction for the outcome.”
Laurie Marty de Cambiare, in Dessins Neapolitan, wrote “The subject of this drawing, which was interpreted as Aurora until now, is more certainly a depiction of Ceres on her chariot, drawn by dragon-snakes. The iconography of Ceres is often confused with that of the goddess of Phrygian origin, Cybele, as well as that of Demeter, in particular when they are used for the illustrationo of allegories of the Seasons or Elements. The presence of Pan and the goat Amalthea, Jupiter’s nurse proves that this is Ceres, goddess of the earth, since Pan and Amalthea together represent abundance, one of the goddess’s attributes. the winged creatures that surround the chariot are sowing the earth, taking the grain from their basket.”
This red chalk drawing by Natoire depicts The Apparition of the Virgin and Child Before St. Bernard by Luca Giordano, which hangs in the Church of the Holy Annunciation in Florence. Tradition has it that the Virgin appeared to St. Bernard to offer him encouragement when he felt too weak and ill to continue writing. Susanna Caviglia-Brunel has included this drawing in her catalog raisonee on Natoire (D84).
“The sketch shows a female figure in half length, weeping and turning to the left,” begins a report on this drawing by Dr. Ciampolini.” He goes on to describe the collectors mark and the inscription Meij, which he attributes to the Sienese baroque painter Bernardino Mei, adding, “the author of the inscription was probably the first collector of Bernardino Mei’s drawings.”
“The way of constructing the forms through filamentous strokes of various intensity, which lends a dynamic character to the figure, are typical of Bernardino Mei….The sketch is a preparatory drawing for the weeping female figure visible on the right in Mei’s large painting representing The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (Galleria di Palazzo degli Alberti, Collezione della Cassa Depositi e Risparmi di Prato). This was executed shortly before the painter’s move to Rome in 1657. There are two other drawings by Mei for this composition, identified by Roberto Contini (A scuola a Palazzo Ridolfi, in Tra controriforma e Novecento. Saggi per Giovanni Pratesi, edited by Giovanni Pagliarulo and Riccardo Spinelli, Firenze, Giovanni Pratesi Antiquario, 2009, p. 141, color plates 2-3), in the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin (The Suida-Manning Collection, 570.199r-v, black and red chalk, 260 x 230 mm). They are preparatory drawings for the whole scene and for the single figure of Iphigenia. Like the sketch discussed here, they have been executed in chalk and characterized by the same nervous and filamentous drawing style.”
Dr. Nicholas Turner wrote about this small drawing that might be by the hand of Carlo Bononi: “The style of the drawing seems to have Emilian influences (e.g. Ludovico Carracci and Guercino), while the saint’s upwardly pointing right hand, which is based ultimately on a figure of the young Baptist by Leonardo, was used a few times in representations of the Baptist by Guido Reni and Guercino.”
“Bononi’s pen-and-wash drawings are rare, they tend to be small in scale and the forms are rendered in a curious shorthand verging on the abstract. Most characteristic of his hand are the looping pen contours — by comparison, the lines in his chalk studies are crisp and angular — which are especially evident in the drapery around the saint’s waist and left sleeve.”
“A pen-and-wash drawing in the British Museum of ‘Christ Disputing with the Doctors’ (1946-7-13-699) shows these features…. If you look on the BMN website you’ll find the colour of the wash is a similar light brown to that in your drawing. A more ambitious compositional study by Bononi, in a private collection, Paris, is a study for an import church decoration in Ferrara and was published by Erich Schleier in ‘Master Drawings, XVIII (1980). Finally, the pose of the figure is not incompatible with saints in Bononi’s altarpieces.”
The drawing illustrated above left, from the Pouncey/Stock archives, depicts St. George with a broken lance standing against the base of a column, looking up to a heavenly apparition—the virgin and child surrounded by angels making music as St. Georges helmet is borne aloft. One finds a similar arrangement of saints in our drawing: St. Peter holding keys, St. Paul reading a book held by a young man, St. George, and a male and female figure looking on. The column is missing and a sketch of St. George slaying the dragon has been added bottom right.
Many agree that this drawing is a design related to the bottom half of the altar of St. George in Braida, in Verona. Xavier Salomon has written, “I am absolutely convinced that the drawing reflects an intermediary stage in a long series of drawings — between the 1550s and 1560s — for the Saint George altarpiece. The painting for the high altar was commissioned by the Canons Regular of San Giorgio in Alga, who presided at San giorgio in Braida. The canons were described by Diana Gisolfi as, “an erudite group and more than capable of determining subject matter and selecting good artists at a time when the Council of Trent had just written guidelines for church art, stressing that it should inspire piety.”
Questions remain as to the hand and exact function of our drawing. Clues are likely to be found in an understanding of workshop members active at the time (Benedetto, for example), their complex practice and roles, and the evolution of ideas. In Collaboration and Replicas in the Shop of Veronese, Artibus et Historiae, Vo. 28, No 55. pp 77-86, Diana Gisolfi wrote, “In the Venetian family workshop, staffed by numerous family members and others, a Veronese is a product of the workshop. The signature of Paolo Veronese assures quality control and supervision, as does the head of an architectural firm today.” She described a Veronese family inventory of drawings from 1682 as revealing “a complex practice of drawings varied in media, indicating different functions.”
In a recent email she wrote, “One possibility for your drawing is a workshop copy perhaps of a portion of a modello drawing related to an idea for the San Giorgio altarpiece. And there is the possibility that it is related to a different commission involving St. George.”
Tracking the evolution of ideas for the altarpiece is not easy. Richard Cocke has pointed out about our drawing that the “composition is a version of both the lost Coccina altar from San Zaccaria of 1565.” As mentioned before, the small sketch of St. George and the Princess seems to be an addition. Architectural details change. Such observations point to an element of experimentation to meet the requirements of the canons. Perhaps our drawing is not merely a copy, per se, but a never-executed invention comprised of ideas from several sources.
Another workshop drawing entitled Saint George combatant le dragon (Louvre, INV 4839) depicts a scene similar to the sketch of St. George and the Princess in our drawing. Xavier Salomon wrote, “Your drawing is definitely a phase between that drawing and the other ones for the altarpiece.”
Research continues. Julien Stock suggested that it not be rushed, stating, “There is a lot to learn about Veronese.”