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Federico Barocci (1526 - 1612)

Lot 19: Federico Barocci , Urbino circa 1535 - 1612 study of the head of a young woman looking down to the right Black chalk heightened with yellow and red chalk


January 23, 2008
New York, NY, US

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Black chalk heightened with yellow and red chalk


measurements note 320 by 250mm


H. Olsen, Federico Barocci, 1962, p. 168;
A. Emiliani, Federico Barocci, Bologna 1985, vol. I, p. 146, reproduced fig. 281


John Skippe (on his mount, with attribution: Barrocio);
by descent to his sister Penelope and her husband James Martin, of Overbury Court, Worcestershire;
by descent to Edward Holland;
by descent to Mrs A.C. Rayner-Wood;
by descent to Edward Holland-Martin;
sale, London, Christie's, 21 November 1958, lot 12, reproduced plate 1 (to Lindsay);
sale, London, Christie's, 6 July 1987, lot 21;
acquired in 1991


This very handsome study is executed in black chalk heightened with coloured chalks, a medium of which Barocci was one of the great masters, creating some of the most impressive drawings made during the second half of the sixteenth century. The present study relates to head of the young woman to the left in the foreground of Barocci's altarpiece known as 'La Madonna del Popolo' (fig. 1). This very important altarpiece, now in the Uffizi, Florence, occupied the artist during the second half of the 1570s. The Pia Confraternita dei Laici di Santa Maria della Misericordia commissioned the painting for their chapel in Santa Maria della Pieve in Arezzo. Initially, the commission was given to Giorgio Vasari, who had already designed the architecture of the new chapel for the confraternita, but when Vasari died in 1574, the commission was passed on to Barocci, a process documented in a fascinating correspondence now preserved in the Archivio Comunale of the Palazzo dei Priori, Arezzo. Most probably, Barocci did not in fact start working on the painting until the beginning of 1576, or shortly before; on 10 February of that year, he reported, however, that he had finished 'tutti li disegni', and had almost completed the cartoon. The final painting seems to have been completed by 1578, and in 1579 Barocci personally escorted the work to Arezzo to be installed in the chapel. It remained there until 1786 when it was secured for the Granducal Galleries in Florence by Pietro Leopoldo de'Medici. In the end, Barocci himself seems to have played a significant part in the choice of the final subject for the altarpiece. As Bellori explained, the composition represents the Seven Acts of Mercy, which are shown performed by the crowd, below the figure of the Saviour delivering the blessing, and the interceding figure of the Virgin to the right of the composition. No fewer than ninety preparatory drawings for this painting survive, indicating the enormous amount of time Barocci spent in designing the various figures and compositional details. The crucial moment in the complex development of the final composition is captured in a spectacular cartoon, formerly in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth (fig.2). In that cartoon, the young woman with two children to the left -- for whose head the present drawing is a study -- is close to her final pose, but is not yet so lavishly dressed, and does not point towards the Madonna above. This gesture gives her even more prominence in the final composition, serving to draw the viewer's attention very effectively into the crowded foreground of the picture. A rapid chalk study also related to the present head is in the Uffizi.υ1 1. Andrea Emiliani , Federico Barocci, Bologna 1985, p. 146, fig. 280

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