VENICE AND SPAIN
In the eighteenth century, Venetian art entered a second golden age; its artists played major roles on the international stage. Since Venice established an academy rather late in the century (1756), drawing instruction was given in the studio of individual artists. Most eighteenth-century Venetian painters were fluent and prolific artists, the epitome of Baroque verve and virtuosity. So too were their drawings fluid and vivacious.
Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) When Sebastiano Ricci returned to Venice in 1696, after fifteen years spent working in Bologna, Parma, Rome, and Milan, he revived Venetian art by emulating the art of Paolo Veronese and other Venetian masters of the sixteenth century. Few drawings from his formative years still exist to illustrate the different currents of late Baroque art that he experienced in those cities. But drawings from his three decades of triumph in Venice demonstrate that he had formed a distinct personal style by the time the new century began. An album of 211 drawings in the Royal Collection at Windsor and an album of 133 drawings in the Accademia at Venice contain the finest examples of his work. The albums were assembled in the early eighteenth century by two prominent collectors who were friends of the artist.
For the composition study The Magdalen Anointing Christ’s Feet (figure 5-32), from the Windsor album, Ricci borrowed from Veronese the Palladian architectural setting, the figure types, and their costumes. Ricci made this modello in preparation for a very large painting of the subject, also in the British Royal collection. The drawing was not the final word, however, because only the four principle figures remained the same in the painting. Everything else was changed. Instead, the drawing represents a stage in his efforts when he put together earlier figure studies and compositional schemes into a finished design in order to make a judgment of the whole.
The drawing must also have been a showpiece of his bravura style, calculated to attract his patrons. Clearly Ricci had an amazing ability to set forth and control a grand composition with nothing but abrupt, jerky, and rapid lines. A relatively few wavy and flickering strokes of the pen bring people and objects to life, put their masses in motion, and shatter volumes into splinters of sparkling light. Different tones of gray wash contrast with the reddish-brown ink of his lines and add color to the drawing’s attractions. The drawings of Veronese (figure 3-37) may have inspired Ricci to free his pen. But instead of searching for the appropriate contour with loose circular strokes, as Veronese did in his sketch, Ricci disregarded contours and practiced an impressionism of lines, as though a lightning flash allowed him only a moment to record reality with a stroke here and a curlicue there.
Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1683-1754) In 1705, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta returned to Venice after working for several years in Bologna. In that city he made it his business to imitate the Carracci and Guercino and to study their legacy. He brought home with him a taste for academic discipline and careful preparation, for diligent study of the nude model, and for chiaroscuro. His experience in Bologna and his sober personality made him a very different draftsman from Ricci.
During his lifetime and beyond, collectors especially sought after his black chalk drawings of expressive heads (tétes de caractère) of which figure 5-33 is an excellent example. Some critics understood these drawings of busts and half-lengths as a male counterpart to the very popular pastels of Rosalba Carriera (figure 5-6).
It has been suggested that Piazzetta’s drawing is an idealized self-portrait of the artist, who would have been in his early forties when the drawing was made. Whoever he is, the fellow wears an exotic costume with a tasseled fur collar that rises high on one shoulder and hides part of his neck and chin because the viewer looks up from below. The young man’s strong features are framed by his thick and animated hair. Although Piazzetta probably set down some contour lines in the making of the drawing, he eventually established forms almost entirely with contrasting areas of light and dark. He stumped the hatching of the face to soften the modeling and elsewhere let stand a more vigorous application of chalk. The strokes of chalk carefully modulate the light in order to generate the illusion of textures, such as fur, hair, and flesh.
Piazzetta was a slow and methodical painter who found that he could supplement his unsteady income with a regular production of drawings. Many of his drawings, most often in red chalk, provided the basis for book illustrations, including those for a volume of nude studies, Studi di Pittura, published posthumously in 1760. The book illustrated each nude twice, once in outline form and once fully modeled. It confirmed his reputation as a great teacher. Indeed, he may have run a life class in his own studio; and when a state-sponsored academy was finally founded in Venice, he became Professore del Nudo and devoted his time almost exclusively to teaching.
Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo (1696‑1770) Unlike Ricci and Piazzetta, Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo stayed in Venice to refine his skills. As a young artist, he gravitated toward the tenebrism of Piazzetta. But by1730, when he was in his early thirties, he had developed a mature style of drawing built on the light and exuberance of Ricci.
Seated River God, Nymph with an Oar, and Putto (figure 5-34) exhibits the manner of drawing that Tiepolo wielded at the height of his prolific and brilliant career. Typically, he began a drawing like this with swirling faint lines in graphite or black chalk that map out possibilities for a rough arrangement of the figures. No lasting decisions were made at this stage. The underdrawing mostly served to warm up his wrist and his imagination. Then with a quill sharpened to a fine point, he drew exact and fluid contour lines for the intertwined and steeply foreshortened figures. Confident of his skill, he drew without hesitation or corrections—a daring high-wire act that allowed no missteps. (In truth, a certain completeness about the drawing suggests that it was not his first attempt at the motif.) Finally, he applied two layers of wash: first, dabs of saturated ink for the darkest shadows, then a very diluted transparent layer that kept these darks translucent and full of light. (He had long since given up diagonal hatching in pen.) Unlike Ricci’s figures, which disintegrate into random squiggles, Tiepolo’s luminous god and nymph maintain their volume.
He made pen and ink drawings such as Seated River God to study the arrangement of various groups of figures and especially the effects of light on them. His corpus of drawings includes roughly hewn primi pensieri as well as finished and elaborated drawings attractive to collectors. It also includes some landscapes, caprices or fantasies, and also caricatures. However, Tiepolo usually made the modello for each canvas or for an entire fresco composition in oil. And he did not follow the academic practice of studying individual figures in great detail. Anatomical details concerned him little—they were second nature to him in any case. His loose manner with the pen freed his imagination for dramatic inventions and brilliant effects of light. (An album that contains 67 spontaneous studies on the theme of the Holy Family bears witness to his creative fecundity).
For the most part, Tiepolo drew for himself and kept his inventions in his studio for future use. The group of river god and nymph (figure 5-34) first appeared in the frescoes at the Palazzo Clerici in Milan in1740 and twelve years later in the ceiling of the Kaisersaal in the Würzburg Residenz.
After Tiepolo’s return to Venice in 1753, his touch grew even lighter. In a flurry of curving whiplash lines, to which he added several areas of very pale wash, he quickly improvised another group of cloud-borne figures for a ceiling (figure 5-35). His dazzling penmanship is breathtaking—his quill glided over the paper like an Olympic figure skater over ice. Just a few abbreviated lines and several swipes of the brush seized the solid figures that flashed in his imagination.
Tiepolo made an enormous number of drawings—over 2000 still exist. During the last years of his life, he and his son Domenico mounted their drawings in a series of albums, catalogued by type and subject, as other Venetian artists had done. Because the drawings were kept together in this way, especially during the years of low esteem that followed his death, a remarkable number of the albums survived intact into the twentieth century. Nevertheless, problems with them persist.
Two kinds of paper divide the Tiepolo drawings into two broad categories: drawings on white paper, which were normally executed in pen and wash over an underdrawing in black or red chalk; and drawings on blue paper, which were normally executed in black or red chalk heightened with white. The pen and wash drawings are mostly the preparatory studies, like figures 5-34 and 5-35, that Tiepolo made for every important project throughout his career. Although albums contain many pen and ink drawings by his son Domenico, the son’s are easily recognized by their style and often by his signature. However, a great controversy surrounds the rather more detailed chalk drawings on blue paper, which the majority of experts consider the work of the son. The few that the father drew probably served as models for his pupils to copy. Many were recordi (records) of his frescoes, drawn most likely by his sons to preserve groups and motifs from the murals for future use. If the sons drew the majority of chalk drawings, then there are very few existing drawings in chalk or ink that directly relate to Giambattista’s great frescoes in Würzburg and almost none to his last decade in Madrid.
Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) Domenico Tiepolo elaborated his father’s caprices and caricatures into original, lighthearted scenes of social comment. In the last decades of his life, Domenico stopped painting and devoted himself entirely to drawing in pen and wash. In those years he produced several large series of biblical subjects, scenes of contemporary life, and his final, finest, and most famous drawing series, Divertimento per li Regazzi (Entertainment for Children). This last series recounts in 104 drawings the life of Punchinello, the sly and witty trickster from the Commedia dell’Arte. His adventures take place in a Venice populated with other Punchinello-like characters. In short, Punchinello becomes Everyman.
Like the other drawings in the series, Punchinello Arrested (figure 5-36) is a finished composition framed by a standard border. Most of the drawings have an even more elaborated architectural or landscape setting than this example. Unlike his father’s suggestive use of wash, Domenico developed consistent cast shadows, modeling, and tonality over the entire composition. More than any other aspect of his pen drawings, Domenico’s lines distinguish his style of pen drawing from that of his father. The son always drew arbitrarily wavy contours, more like those of Tintoretto or Sebastiano Ricci than the suave yet accurate contours of his father. The sleeves of the characters in the center of the drawing best display Domenico’s characteristic line.
Punchinello Arrested, number 33 in the series, is signed in the lower right corner. On the left, a turbaned oriental is one of many motifs in the series that Domenico borrowed from his father’s paintings and drawings. Modern critics have soberly interpreted Divertimento per li Regazzi as an allegory of the end of the Venetian Republic and a critique of the moral seriousness of the Enlightenment—in the guise of a delightful illustrated children’s book.
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canale) (1697-1768) Canaletto, the famous view painter of Venice, made two types of drawings: sketches that documented the buildings of the city and finished drawing that he sold to collectors.
Figure 5-37 is a sketch that records the appearance of two houses along the Grand Canal. It is one of 138 similar drawings still bound in one of his notebooks (Quaderno Cagnola, Accademia, Venice). It seem certain that Canaletto sketched these building on the site in pencil, traces of which are visible in the drawing, and then redrew the sketch in ink back in the studio. He annotated the drawings with observations about colors (B = blanco, white) and the function of the building. The sketchbook drawings, which never show water, almost all go to the edge of the page, suggesting the spread of the city that lies beyond the limits of the drawing. In fact, figure 5-37 in one of six drawings that documents the Grand Canal on successive pages of the sketchbook. The drawings in sketchbooks like the Quaderno Cagnola were the raw material for Canaletto’s paintings and etchings.
He may have used a mechanical device, a camera obscura, to make the initial pencil sketch—just as he may have sometimes used a ruler to make straight lines or a compass to draw semicircular arches, as most draftsmen do. They were tools, not crutches. The camera did not constrain his vision; in fact his point of view shifts slightly from one drawing to the next in the sketchbook, perhaps in order to get a better grasp of each building. Back in the studio, his pen often straightened and adjusted the pencil lines as he saw fit. While sketching, Canaletto ignored chiaroscuro and omitted wash or hatching.
Canaletto sold almost all his paintings and finished drawings to British gentlemen, who sometimes requested a series of views. The Grand Canal Looking Toward the Carità (figure 5-38) was one of 143 drawings in the collection of his best patron, Joseph Smith, the British consul in Venice. Indeed, Smith owned almost a third of Canaletto’s extant drawings. (The drawings and paintings in his collection were sold to George III in 1763.) The scene in this finished drawing was developed from four sketches in the sketchbook, and the view was repeated in a painting now at Woburn Abbey. Nevertheless, his finished drawings were usually not preparatory models for paintings, but independent works alongside them. He clearly enjoyed expressing himself in drawings.
What distinguishes this drawing from a sketchbook drawing is the attention to chiaroscuro achieved by means of carefully modulated hatching and by atmospheric perspective. He shaded the sides of buildings facing away from the light with very regularly spaced diagonal hatching. The size of the gaps between the diagonal lines controls the degree of darkness or light. Notice how he has widely spaced the hatching beneath the entablatures of the main building to indicate the soft shadows underneath them. (He may have used a metal pen to form such consistent lines.) The hatching in the sky and the different sort of hatching in the water suggest different light and therefore different texture. In addition, objects in the foreground are heavily inked while structures in the distance have faint thin lines to account for the atmosphere. The reproduction of natural light makes it seem that his drawings were sketched on the spot because, as a contemporary put it, “one sees the sun shining in them” (Marchesini 172).
In some finished drawings, Canaletto developed the chiaroscuro in the drawing with gray wash instead of hatching. The wash creates a more pictorial appearance, more like a painting, and consequently they probably sold well. The perceptive Smith, however, owned few of them. Although the wash is translucent, it tends to lie flat on the page. It does not reproduce the scintillation of natural daylight as well as Canaletto’s pen lines. Later in his career, for human figures and foliage, he developed a different and perhaps more fashionable style of pen line, replete with curlicues and flourishes.
Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) Shortly after Canaletto returned to Venice in 1755, having spent nearly ten years in England, he hired Franceso Guardi as a studio assistant. By then in his mid forties, Francesco had collaborated for decades with his older brother Antonio, painting mostly small religious images and altarpieces. (About forty of Francesco’s religious drawings survive.) By the time of brother Antonio’s death in 1760, Francesco had become a viewpainter in the manner of Canaletto.
Francesco Guardi’s paintings and drawings from around 1760 have often been confounded with those of Canaletto since they are so close in iconography and style. But by the early 1770s, when he drew A Regatta on the Grand Canal, Venice (figure 5-39), Guardi had developed a very different personal manner.
The most obvious difference is the change in scale: the buildings and people are smaller and the sky is larger and more significant. In fact, most of the drawing is the washed-in sky, which broods over everything. For optical reasons, it grows lighter toward the horizon to create a contrasting background for the dark buildings. Unlike Canaletto, Guardi constantly applied brown wash and seldom used hatching for shading. The perspective is very deep and the right bank of the canal tends to spread out. Instead of the long, fine, straight lines of Canaletto, Guardi formed buildings with freely drawn short dashes that merely suggest the architecture.
Scholars have suspected that Guardi somehow knew Sebastiano Ricci’s style of impressionistic strokes of the pen. While this drawing records a specific or at least a recurrent event, eventually Guardi will disregard topographical accuracy in his views of Venice. Most human figures–reduced to minute squiggles–have their backs toward us he. They are merely vibrating reflections of the light that fragment the whole scene. Instead of Canaletto’s rational analysis of nature, Guardi turned the city into a fantasy, conjured up by his flashing slight of hand. An early nineteenth-century Venetian critic was the first to call his art “magic.”
The bulk of Guardi’s six hundred or so drawings still in existence came from the last dozen years of his life. Most of them were what was left in his studio at the time of his death, and most of those drawings were capricci—dreamed up combinations of real or imagined buildings, ruins, or landscape. Venetians seemed to appreciate the inventiveness, artifice, and wit of capricci in contrast to every-day views of their city. Canaletto painted and drew some imaginary architecture in the years that Guardi was an associate of his. Guardi, however, painted and drew capricci with abandon.
His studio was also filled with macchiette (literally, little stains), as Italian writers call them—cursory sketches of the people and boats of Venice. Like Watteau, Guardi must have carried a sketchbook around Venice, taking visual notes of what he saw. Both artists incorporated the sketches in later paintings.
Capriccio with Ruined Arch and Villa (figure 5-40) illustrates quite well the freedom of his late manner. He often framed a vista with an archway that acts as a proscenium opening unto a scene behind it. Two or three figures move about. Typical of his macchiette, they are formed with just a few strokes of the pen. Guardi literally dashed on the sheet a minimum of lines, then liberally applied wash with a stunning sensitivity to light, especially the contrast between the dark of the arch and the bright light of the villa.
The relatively large and finished drawing A Regatta on the Grand Canal is similar to a painting in Lisbon, and the small and rough Ruined Arch and Villa is similar to other paintings. Exactly how the drawings functioned as studies for the paintings is unknown. Guardi must have also sold some of his finished views of Venice to foreign collectors, but at much cheaper prices than those commanded by Canaletto.
Relatively few drawings by the major artists of Spain have survived. A single drawing has a shaky attribution to Francisco Zurbarán. A mere half dozen drawings have been attributed to Diego Velázquez. Five drawings have been generally accepted as belonging to El Greco–although in 2007 Nicolas Turner attributed twenty-two more to him. Jusepe de Ribera, Alonso Cano, and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo have a significant body of graphic work to their name—about one hundred each. The big exception to the scarcity of Spanish drawing is Francesco Goya. He left behind many hundreds.
Spanish drawing of the fifteenth century is almost non-existent. The few examples that remain are mostly architectural designs by artists born in the Netherlands. However, there does exist a series of roughly sketched heads in charcoal and chalk on the backs of seven wood panels of an altarpiece of 1437 by Bernardo Martorell, now in the Diocesan Museum, Gerona. The drawings confirm that, when paper was still scarce, workshops throughout Europe made sketches from life on panels, which they normally scraped clean for reuse, except in this case.
In the sixteen century century, small groups of drawings have been attached to a handful of artists, all of whom spent considerable time in Italy before they made their reputation in Spain. In addition to El Greco, the artists are Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina (d. ca. 1530), Pedro Machuca (d. 1550), Alonso Berrugete (d. 1561), and Gaspar Becerra (d. 1570). Presumably, they brought an Italian tradition of drawing with them when they returned to Spain.
In 1994 nine silverpoint drawings in the Louvre, attributed to Bernardo Luini, were reassigned to Yañez de la Almedina. (Boubli, École Espagnole, cat. 23-31) Most of them—single or double figure studies squared for transfer—are related to paintings he did in Cuenca in the early 1530s. Yañez is generally believed to be the “Ferrando Spagnuolo” who Vasari said assisted Leonardo da Vinci on his Battle of Anghiari in Florence. The most remarkable thing about the drawings is not that they resemble the work of a follower of Leonardo like Luini but that an artist in Europe still made studies in silverpoint by 1530. Yañez seems to have considered them as exempla to be inserted now and again into his works, similar to illustrations in a model book.
Pedro Machuca has been identified as the “Pietro spagnolo” who assisted members of Raphael’s workshop on several projects in Rome. He may also have encountered the expressive Mannerism of Rosso in Florence before he returned to Spain in 1520. His several drawings are all many-figured, finished compositional designs in pen and wash, heightened with white, for subjects like the Decent from the Cross or the Entombment. In short, they are modelli.
Alonso Berrugete (1488-1561) Vasari wrote that in 1508 “Alfonso Berrugete spagnuolo” copied the cartoons of Michelangleo’s Battle of Cascina in Florence. It was the start of a career-long attachment to the art of Michelangelo. Berruguete also probably collaborated with Rosso and Pontormo in Florence in the actual formation of Mannerism.
In 1996, the Louvre Museum acquired a pen and ink drawing of A Seated Man (figure 5-41) and added it to the nucleus of about four extent drawings that are certain attributions to Berruguete. Like Michelangelo’s ignudi or slaves, the entire brooding figure twists one way then another: the left foot moves behind the right, the right arm points to the left, and the head sinks to the right. Berrugete also modeled the figure, and considerably darkened it, with a heavy amount of cross hatching that resembles the chiseled hatching lines of Michelangelo’s early years. (See figure 3-12.) Seated Man has the tapering elegance distinctive of Berrugete: each arm ends in a pointing index finger. Also typical of Berruguete, the man conveys more outward emotion than the introverted creatures of Michelangelo.
Gaspar Becerra (1520-1570) When Gaspar Becerra returned to Spain in 1557, he left behind in Italy a respectable body of work. He had assisted Vasari and Daniele da Volterra on frescoes in Rome. Ceán Bermúdez in his Diccionario (1800) wrote that Beccerra built his compositions around multiple stages of drawing. However, what remains today are basically a dozen or so fragments of the cartoons he used, especially for the mythological scenes on the ceiling of the Pardo palace. The cartoon pieces hint that he drew grand, weighty figures similar to those of Michelanglo in his later years—but without the anxiety. (Becerra copied the Sistine Chapel Last Judgment before its nudes were clothed.) Like Michelangelo in those years, he used black chalk almost exclusively for his figure studies and cartoons.
The library at El Escorial has very few drawings by Pellegrino Tibaldi, Luca Cambiaso, Federico Zuccaro or any of the other late sixteenth-century Italian artists who worked at the palace-monastery. The only exception is two portfolios, by various artists, of about 100 ink and sepia wash drawings that supplied patterns for embroidery work. The Italian artists at El Escorial did bring to Spain a predilection for elaborated compositional drawings in pen and ink and wash. And they trained the leading artists of Madrid in the early seventeenth century, namely Vincente Carducho (1576-1638) and Eugenio Cajés (1575-1634). Dozens of drawings by these two artists still exist.
In sum, major Spanish artists of the sixteen century drew figure studies, modelli, and cartoons. They came back to Spain steeped in the artistic practice of Rome and Florence and, in El Greco’s case, Venice. However, from what remains of their drawings it is unknowable whether any one of them brought to Spain Raphael’s practice of inventing a composition in a primo pensiero and developing it with many studies of individual figures and groups. The small number of isolated drawings by some of the major sixteenth-century artists of Spain do not allow us to make conclusions about how drawing functioned in their creative process and about how they developed a personal style.
The small amount of Spanish drawing has led some writers to claim that Spanish artists did not draw all that much—at least not as much as their Italian contemporaries. Written evidence about drawing does not clarify the picture obscured by the present scarcity. An inventory of El Greco’s studio at his death in 1614 listed a mere 150 drawings. Francisco Pacheco (d. 1654), who ran an academy that Velázquez attended in Seville, boasted in 1638 that he had made as many as 170 drawings. Neither number approaches the hundreds of drawings that the majority of Italian artists of the period passed down. It seems that little effort was made in Spain to preserve an artist’s drawings or to form collections until the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Unfortunately, most of those collections were destroyed or dispersed by fire and war.
Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) Jusepe de Ribera left Spain at age fifteen, never to return. While living in Rome, between 1606 and 1616, he absorbed a version of Caravaggio’s realism as well as an un-Caravaggesque love of drawing. He later confessed that in Rome he had studied the work of Raphael in drawing. After Rome, he spent the rest of his career in Spanish-controlled Naples.
Over 160 drawings now make up Ribera’s surviving corpus. About thirty of them are finished red chalk drawings. Almost all the others are in pen and ink, half of those with wash. The bulk his drawings date from the 1620s and 1630s.
Saint Sebastian in the Indiana University Art Museum is an excellent example of the skill that he possessed with red chalk in the 1620s. A young man tied to a tree was a favorite subject–there are nine other drawings like it. The latest catalogue calls the Indiana drawing “probably the most beautiful.” None of the ten nor any of his other chalk drawings were models for an existing painting.
Posed in a svelte curve, Sebastian hangs from ropes tied around his wrists. His arms and torso are stretched beyond the possible. Nevertheless he sits on the ground his thighs expertly foreshortened forward. His head is thrown back in dramatic foreshortening too. The contours of his torso are refined and exact and not at all sketchy. The lines are stronger and darker in the shadows and thinner and more luminous in the light. Closely spaced hatching models the nude, and only a few precise whiffs of chalk describe the anatomy of the torso.