This drawing by Jacopo Zucchi, of marked Northern influence, was already correctly recognized in 1999 by Edmund P. Pillsbury, who published monographic studies on the artist, at the time of his sale at auction (Sotheby's, New York, January 27, 1999, lot 22). The subject of the sheet, taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses (1:152-8) and Fasti (5:35-44), evokes the taste for mythological paintings of Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, Zucchi's main patron in Rome after 1572; a large corpus of preparatory drawings of this later time by Zucchi is known. The Metropolitan drawing, on the beautifully embossed gilt mount of John Talman (1677-1726), the eminent British collector who erroneously inscribed the name of Elseheimer on the mat (an understandable mistake of attribution given the figural vocabulary of Zucchi), appears to relate to the time of the famous undated paintings of the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Iron Age (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence), which are variously thought to be from 1580-1585. However, since Zucchi's Metropolitan Sheet of the Battle of the Giants is executed in a surprisingly loose, painterly technique of pen and ink with mauve and brown washes, and white gouache highlights, it could even be from the last decade of his life (Zucchi died in 1596). Zucchi's 'modello' drawing for the Golden Age of 1580-1585 (J. Paul Getty Museum, no. 84.GG.22, Los Angeles), is more graphically precise in execution, and the same seems true of the recently published 'modello' for the Iron Age (Private Collection, Switzerland). The ornate gold embossed mount is typical of John Talman. This dramatic, highly modeled drawing makes use of the frequent Mannerist device of displacing the main actor of the story, the god Jupiter who wields his thunderbolt mounted on an eagle, to the background (along the top of the scene), while pushing the monumental group of the fighting giants to the foreground, as the aesthetic focus of attention. The tall, muscular figures in agitated movement, their small stumpy feet, large expressive hands, and chiseled facial foreshortenings are among the hallmarks of Zucchi's style. The drawing technique, with stark contrasts of brown wash shadow and white gouache highlights, is typical of the artist.
(Carmen C. Bambach, 2007, revised 2014)
With regard to the provenance, the drawing can be identified as that mentioned in the 1611 inventory of Jacopo Zucchi's possessions after his death. It is likely listed as " disegno tocho di acquarello della fulminazione dei giganti" ("drawing touched with wash, [depicting] the lightning of the Giants", Archivio di Stato, Rome, Trenta Notai Capitolini, Uff. 1, 1611, notaio Agabitus Riccius, Gennaio-Giugno 1611, c. 805 recto). This very important document lists 511 drawings and prints owned by Zucchi and inherited by his daughter Elena Zucchi. It has been published by Maria Giulia Aurigemma ("Un corpus perduto? Sui disegni di Jacopo Zucchi," in Studiolo, vol. 5, 2007, pp.115-47) who has not, however, identified the Metropolitan Museum of Art's drawing.
(Furio Rinaldi, 2014)
Estate of Jacopo Zucchi (Italian, Florence ca. 1540–1596 Rome); His daughter, Elena Zucchi(mentioned in the 1611 inventory of the artist's possessions); John Talman (British, 1677–1726)(his mount, with attribution to 'Elsheimer')Talman inscribed the mount with an attribution to Elsheimer.; Sotheby's, New York, January 27, 1999, lot 22 (as Zucchi); Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel, Munich
Carmen C. Bambach "Tuscan Drawings of the Quattrocento and Cinquecento in the Metropolitan Museum of Art 1998-2005." Invisibile agli occhi: Atti della giornata di studio in ricordo di Lisa Venturini. Ed. by Nicoletta Baldini, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell'Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence, 2007, pp. 83, 92 note 47, fig. 99.