Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Study for the Allegory of San Gimignano and Colle Val d'Elsa

Jacopo Zucchi (Italian, Florence ca. 1540–1596 Rome)
Pen and brown ink, highlighted with white gouache, traces of squaring in black chalk (on top of drawing surface), over traces of black chalk on blue paper
8 7/16 x 8 7/16 in. (21.5 x 21.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, David T. Schiff Gift, 2001
Accession Number:
Not on view
This powerfully rendered composition portrays an allegory of the Tuscan towns of San Gimignano and Colle Val d'Elsa, which came under Florentine rule in 1354 and 1333 respectively. The drawing is connected with a precisely documented, historically significant painting, and this helps in deciphering the otherwise abstruse iconography. A muscular old river god alluding to the Elsa River sits in the foreground, flanked by two emblematic male figures holding the banners of the two towns. At left the banner would eventually depict the lion of San Gimignano, and at right the banner would eventually depict the horse's head of Colle. The distant background includes roving views of the fortified towns, and in the final work the town furthest in the distance would include the numerous tall towers that would characterize it as San Gimignano. As can be deduced from the traces of proportional squaring, the carefully drawn sheet served as a demonstration drawing (modello), the penultimate step in the process of preliminary design of the painting before it was enlarged to full scale. The drawing technique, with firm rounded outlines and stark contrasts of white highlights and brown-gray wash shadows, is typical of the artist.

This superb drawing by Jacopo Zucchi was preparatory for a ceiling compartment in the "Sala dei Cinquecento" (Palazzo Vecchio, Florence), and forms part of a monumental decorative scheme in fresco and oil painting executed by Giorgio Vasari and his workshop in 1563. It is an attractive exhibition piece, because of its dramatic composition and vigorous draftsmanship. This is a fairly early work by Zucchi, strongly influenced by Giorgio Vasari, who employed him in for the painting of the ceiling panels and wall frescoes in the "Sala dei Cinquecento." The painting cycle in the "Sala" grandly celebrated the reign of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

(Carmen C. Bambach, 2009)
Inscription: Annotated by collector on the old mount: "Johannes Strada" This is an incorrect reference to Stradanus.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (British)(Lugt 2445); Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.; Vendor: Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," November 5, 2001–January 28, 2002.

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, fig. no. 98, pp. 82-83, 92 n., ill.

Florian Härb The Drawings of Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574). Rome, 2015, p. 439, fig. 7 (as Giovanni Stradanus).

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