Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Seated Old Man with Right Arm Upraised (Tithonus) (recto); Seated Nude Youth (figure of Day) (verso)

Artist:
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591–1666 Bologna)
Date:
1621
Medium:
Red chalk on blue paper
Dimensions:
9 1/4 x 12 11/16 in. (23.5 x 32.2 cm).
Classification:
Drawings
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1970
Accession Number:
1970.168
Not on view
This study from life was intended for the elderly figure of Tithonus – the discarded lover of Aurora, goddess of dawn – who is seated on the left in Guercino's ceiling fresco of the ‘Aurora’ in the Casino Ludovisi, Rome, painted in 1621. Projected in sharp ‘sotto in sù’ (seen from below) perspective, the scene, showing Aurora crossing the heavens in a chariot, was a milestone in the Italian Baroque tradition of illusionistic ceiling painting. Guercino, one of the greatest and most prolific draftsmen of the Italian Baroque, realized this lively drawing with red chalk, thus powerfully enhancing the chromatic contrast between the figure and the blue paper. The fresco was commissioned from the young Guercino by Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632) soon after he was made cardinal and treasurer to the Holy See on February 15, 1621.

Walter Vitzthum identified this drawing in 1968 (then on the Florence art market), as a study for the figure of Tithonus in the Casino Ludovisi. The nude youth on the verso was connected by Mahon (Mahon, 1968, p. 91), not entirely convincingly, to the figure of Day in a lunette below one end of the ceiling fresco (Salerno, 1988, fig.2, p. 168) . The Casino Ludovisi decorations date from the second half of 1621. Comparable chalk studies from this period are Dead Christ with an Angel (1617-18) and Erminia (1619-20)(Royal Library, Windsor, inv. nos. 2755, 2898; See Mahon and Turner, 1989, cat. nos. 3, 12, respectively).

The drawing technique and style independently confirm the dating of this sheet to 1621, because the figure's interior modeling is relatively broad and painterly when compared with that of more refined chalk studies (influenced by a 1624 visit to Parma) from later in the 1620s, such as Study for a Figure of Semele of 1625 (Vienna, Albertina, inv. no. 2395) and Study for a Figure of Zechariah of 1626-27, for Piacenza Cathedral (Genoa, Palazzo Rosso, inv. no. 1118; see: Turner and Plazzotta, 1991, cat. nos. 57, 58, respectively).
Inscription: The verso is annotated, at upper right, in graphite: "32", and at lower left, in charcoal: "'BM / LY".

Marking: Watermark : eagle with a crown in a circle (Briquet 209): paper produced in Verona, 1582-1596.
Purchased from Armando Neerman (London)in 1970
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings Recently Acquired, 1969-1971," January 18, 1972–April 16, 1972.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Roman Artists of the 17th Century: Drawings and Prints," November 2, 1976–January 16, 1977.

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. "Bolognese Drawings in North American Collections, 1500-1800," September 11, 1981–November 8, 1981.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Emilian Drawings and Prints in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1500-1700," March 26, 1987–May 24, 1987.

Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna. "Giovanni Francesco Barbieri il Guercino 1591-1666. Disegni," September 6, 1991–November 10, 1991.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," February 26, 1996–May 5, 1996.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," October 25, 2004–January 23, 2005.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selection from the Permanent Collection," September 28, 2015–January 7, 2016.

Sir Denis Mahon Il Guercino. Catalogo critico dei disegni. Exh. cat., Bologna, Palazzo Dell'Archiginnasio, September 1 - November 18, 1968. Bologna, 1968, p. 91.

Catherine Johnston Il Seicento e il Settecento a Bologna: Barocco a Napoli e nell'Italia meridionale. Milan, 1971, fig. no. 29, p. 86, ill.

Jacob Bean Drawings Recently Acquired, 1969-1971. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (January 18 - April 16). New York, 1972, cat. no. 25, p. 11.

Jacob Bean (but catalogue not signed), The Metropolitan Museum of Art Roman Artists of the 17th Century: Drawings and Prints. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1976, n.p.

Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 17th century Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1979, cat. no. 237, fig. no. 237, pp. 182-83, ill.

Mimi Cazort, Catherine Johnston Bolognese Drawings in North American Collections 1500-1800. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 1982, cat. no. 54, fig. no. 54 r, 54 v, p. 93, ill.

Sir Denis Mahon, David Ekserdjian Guercino Drawings from the Collections of Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 1986, cat. no. following no. 13, p. 7.

Sir Denis Mahon, Nicholas Turner The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. Cambridge, 1989, p. 11.

William M. Griswold "Guercino." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.s. vol. 48, no. 4, New York, Spring 1991, fig. no. 21-22, pp. 25-28, ill.

Nicholas Turner, Carol Plazzotta Drawings by Guercino from British Collections. London, 1991, cat. no. under no. 33, p. 64.

Sir Denis Mahon Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Il Guercino. 1591-1666. Disegni. Exh. cat., Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna (September 6 - November 10, 1991). Bologna, 1992, p. 58, no. 28, figs. 28r, 28v.



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