Recto: The Port City of Alexandria (? Allusion to Dinocrates's Building of Alexandria, Vitruvius, Book 2, introduction, no. 1); Verso: Fragmentary Writing ("Libro Primo...").
Attributed to a member of the Sangallo family (Florence, ca. 1530–1545)
Original Treatise Written by Marcus Pollio Vitruvius (Roman, active late 1st century B.C.)
Pen and dark brown ink
sheet: 8 3/8 x 5 9/16 in. (21.2 x 14.2 cm)
Purchase, Bequest of W. Gedney Beatty, by exchange, 2008
Not on view
A recent discovery, this sheet and seven others (acc. nos. 2008.105.1-8) comprised a manuscript draft for an Italian edition of the sole surviving architectural treatise of Roman antiquity, Ten Books on Architecture by Marcus Pollius Vitruvius (late first century B.C.). Had the project been completed, it would have ranked among the brilliantly imaginative works of Renaissance interpretive architectural theory. The drawings also exhibit a beautifully expressive handling of the pen. Comparisons of style as well as of the shorthand notation in the sketching of human figures suggest a close kinship with drawings by Bastiano "Aristotile" da Sangallo (Florence, 1481 – Florence 1551) and the collaborators that helped him draw and write the motifs of marginalia in a printed 1486 edition of Vitruvius (Biblioteca Corsiniana, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Rome) that was reworked in the 1530s. By all accounts a virtuoso stage set designer, Bastiano da Sangallo-the cousin and closest collaborator of Antonio da Sangallo "The Younger" and Giovanni Battista da Sangallo "Il Gobbo"-was Michelangelo's assistant in the Sistine Chapel and took the surname of "Aristotile" for his love of antiquity. Members of the Sangallo family had been deeply interested in Vitruvius for at least two generations.
Although inscribed "Alexandra," the roving view of the port city here looks suspiciously like a coastal town in Italy with Roman monuments. Note the triumphal arch and the metae (or obelisks). The drawing fragment is not accompanied by text, so the precise identification of the passage in Vitruvius's treatise is not clear. It may well be that the artist meant to depict Vitruvius's allusion to the building of Alexandria by Dinocrates, as told in the introduction to the first chapter of book 2.
Text and Drawings for an Italian Edition of Vitruvius's Ten Books on Architecture.
Inscription: Recto drawing is inscribed: "ALISANDRIA." Verso is inscribed: "Cosi queste . cose asigniate tra li anguli dello … / adirizati . dodici diuisioni di piazza . e delle strade che…/ chomi anchora . il i pasatj disignj : che chontengano…"
(C. C. Bambach; May 2008)
Mallams Fine Art Auctioneers, Oxford, sale June 8, 2007, lot 143; Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," July 14, 2008–October 19, 2008.