Časopis ARS 44 (2011) 2


Kresby cremonských maliarov v zbierke Slovenskej národnej galérie
[Drawings by Cremona Painters in the Collections of the Slovak National Gallery]


At the grand exhibition Drawings from Cremona 1500 – 1580 (September – November 1995), a set of drawings from the so-called Teplice album, an album formerly owned by the Clary-Aldringen family, now deposited in the Regional Museum in Teplice in northern Bohemia, was for the first time presented to professional and general public. The Teplice set originally consisted of two albums, each with about one hundred sheets – one album is completely preserved in the library of the Teplice Chateau, that is in the Regional Museum, the other one got lost, or rather was stolen (as many other things) in the postwar era, soon after 1945. In the next years, part of the lost album was offered to the purchasing committees of the National Gallery in Prague (thereinafter NG), and in three stages the individual sheets were bought back. In 1955, the Prague NG bought the first 6 drawings, in the next year 16, and another 16 sheets as late as 1987. It is certain that each of them comes from the lost album from the Clary-Aldringen collection. At the exhibition, part of the acquisitions was from the surviving album and part from the NG purchases, to which loans from several world collections were added (Louvre, Uffizi, Albertina, British Museum). Two years later (1997 – 1998), the group of Cremona drawings was introduced at another exhibition, held in Cremona, and finally the individual drawings as well as the whole group were discussed in many reviews, specialized studies, and articles.

The main and largest part of the exhibited drawings, displayed at both exhibitions, thus came from the former two albums, the property of the Clary-Aldringen family, which were deposited in the Teplice Chateau. The two albums are part of the spoils of war, acquired together with paintings and various valuables, especially from the rich library of the Mantua dukes, by the imperial general Johann von Aldringen (1588 – 1634) after the conquest of Mantua in 1630. The preceding history of the two albums and thus of the whole collection of drawings is not quite clear – it could have been part of the library of the Mantua dukes or, which is more likely, the collection of the painter Antonio Maria Viani (1555/1560 – 1630), who came from Cremona. Viani was in the service of the Mantua dukes until he died as prefetto delle fabbriche and his work is amply represented in both albums.

At about the same time, when the NG in Prague acquired fragments from the lost album of the Teplice collection, Dr. Karol Vaculík began to build up a collection of old Italian drawings in the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava (thereinafter SNG), especially through purchases at antique dealers in Prague. From the drawings unambiguously connected with Cremona, it was 10 sheets in 1956, 7 sheets in 1957, and probably the last sheet was purchased as late as 1972. In all of these purchases, it may be presumed that they originally were part of the lost Teplice album. The Bratislava collection remained more or less outside professional interest and its more detailed examination only began recently, in connection with the restoration of several sheets.

The collection of old Italian drawings in the SNG in Bratislava now comprises 70 sheets, the provenance of which includes Venice, Lombardy, Bologna and Rome; they date from the 16th – 18th centuries. The Cremona drawings are important because of their high quality and the possibility of exact identification.

The earliest drawing in the Cremona set in the collection at the SNG is not very large in size, it rather being a primo pensiero by Camillo Boccaccino (1504/1505, Cremona – 1546, Cremona), Agony in the Gethsemane Garden (Luke 22.39-46). The drawing with the motif of the kneeling Christ supported by an angel is done in loose penwork with distinct contours and many radical deletions in interior modelling. Similarly, in the drawing on the verso, depicting probably a warrior, several repeated contours consist of diminutive arches and the interior modelling is indicated by fine hatching. Especially the recto drawing, a figural group done by several precise dynamic lines, betrays an expert hand and associates this sheet with northern Italy, in particular Cremona in the first half of the cinquecento. The loose treatment and freedom from detail ascribes the Bratislava drawing to the similar, not very extensive work of Camillo Boccaccino from Cremona. The warrior on the verso has a parallel in several of his drawings done with the same technique, deposited in the Louvre in Paris (Inv. Nos. 10281, 5930BIS, 5930TER, etc.), but a real proof is provided by a drawing from the Prague NG, depicting Heracles. The development of the basic contour and the arches of interior modelling are almost identical in the Bratislava and the Prague drawings. Similar analogies are found for the motif of the Agony in the Gethsemane Garden. At the end of the thirties and the beginning of the forties of the cinquecento, Boccaccino executed designs for one part of the decoration of the church of S. Sigismondo in Cremona. Among other things, he designed there the Instruments of Christ’s Martyrdom. And the recto of the Bratislava drawing matches with these studies in its loose penwork, using hints rather, but with a strong emphasis on the dramatic character of the scene. In 1541, on the occasion of the ceremony of the arrival of Emperor Charles V in Cremona, Boccaccino produced many designs for decorations with allegorical themes and many figures of warriors. Like in the Prague drawing of Heracles, the verso of the Bratislava drawing with the picture of a probably ancient warrior in action with a shield is connected with this event. The Bratislava drawings (r+v) clearly belong to the oeuvre of Camillo Boccaccino, which might be dated relatively accurately around 1540.

From approximately the same period, another drawing comes from Bratislava, Study of a Seated Man, which I attribute to one of the protagonists of Cremona painting in the cinquecento, Giulio Campi (1502?, Cremona – 1572, Cremona). Sparing pen lines handled with supreme precision define both the main contours and, in several moves of the pen, the inner modelling of the drapery of the figure, complemented by radical hatching indicating the conditions of light. Thus may be characterized both the drawing of the Study of a Seated Man and the verso with the Study of the Figure of an Old Man, the painterly treatment of which almost unambiguously attributes it to the Campi family from the Cremona school. For comparison, a good deal of material is provided by the set of Gulio’s drawings in the NG in Prague and by drawings from many world collections. From outside Prague there is for instance the much related Figure of a Seated Man from the Louvre, with identical, somewhat illogical ending of the right hand of the seated man (Inv. No. 5662, partly also 8718.2) or the more figural and a little later Deposition from the Cross from the Albertina in Vienna (Inv. No. 2022). Tentatively, the two Bratislava drawings (r+v) may be associated with the christological cycle in St. Margaret’s church in Cremona, finished by Giulio in 1547 as a sketch of figural types. This allows setting the origin of our drawings around the middle of the fifties of the cinquecento.

Several decades later is another indisputably Cremona drawing, Study of the Figures of Two Apostles, which may be safely linked with Bernardino Gatti, also known as Sojaro (1496, Pavia – 1576, Cremona).

In the SNG, this high-quality and spontaneous study has so far been registered as a Study of Male Figures with Drapery and was attributed to an “Italian master of the 17th century”. In 2007 – 2009, the drawing was restored and the restorer, Jarmila Tarajčáková-Dóriová, in her unpublished doctoral thesis (2010) partly accepted the old attribution of the verso but claimed that the drawing was made after a detail of the figures of two apostles from a monumental composition by Bernardino Gatti, Assumption of the Virgin, from the high altar in the cathedral in Cremona. The typical building up of the volumes of the male figures, their typology and the treatment of the drapery do not allow any doubt, I believe, about the Bratislava drawing being an original work by Bernardino Gatti. For comparison, several drawings of basically identical character may be used – especially the Study of the Figure of an Apostle from the Getty collection in Malibu or the Study of the Figure of an Apostle from the collection of Italian drawings in the British Museum in London. A no less strong analogy is found in the Group of Apostles from the Assumption of the Virgin from the Gabinetto disegni e stampe degli Uffizi in Florence. All these paintings, in spite of differences in technique (in each case it is washed pen drawing), are identical in draughtsmanship and deal with the same motif – groups of Apostles from the lower part of the Assumption of the Virgin. In the example used for comparison, it is drawings from the sixties and partly from the seventies of the cinquecento which are sketches for the decoration of the dome in the church of S. Maria della Steccata in Parma, dating from those years. In 1573, Gatti left for Cremona, where he obtained the commission for the monumental picture of the Assumption, with numerous extra figures, for the local cathedral. The Bratislava drawing may be regarded as a preparatory study for the left bottom part of the composition, for the pair of Apostles watching the miraculous event. This hypothesis gets a strong support from the quadrature covering the Bratislava drawing as a preparation for the transfer of the motif to the carton, but the support comes especially from four other drawings made for the same occasion. Gatti’s late work is distinguished by the use of a fairly wide and soft line in hatching when black chalk is used, which is basically in correspondence with the drawings. The Assumption of the Virgin in Cremona is Gatti’s final work, the painter died in February 1576. Shortly before his death, around and before 1575, he made a variant of the Assumption as a painting of a much smaller size (now Collezione Cavalcabó in Cremona) and in this less demanding variant he also used, for the left side of the scene, the same pair of Apostles as in the Bratislava drawing. Our drawing may date from 1573 – 1575.

Probably connected with the now lost album from the Clary-Aldringen collection is the drawing of St. Christopher with Infant Jesus, which I attribute to a follower of the great personality of painting in Parma, Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, also known as Il Parmigianino (1503, Parma – 1540, Casalmaggiore). The older attribution to Parmigianino, by an inscription on the verso, can be accepted only partly. Beside indisputable agreements with Parmigianino’s work, there are a number of deviations which rule out a direct attribution. It is primarily the total absence of hatching, the very light and in places even indistinct contours, and the finishing of the volumes by washed tint, these details are never found in Parmigianino. And these very details are typical of another painter coming from and active in Cremona, Bernardino Campi (1522, Cremona – 1591, Reggio Emilia). Certainty about attribution of the drawing to Bernardino (in spite of an identical name, he is probably unconnected with the wide Campi family in Cremona) will come from a comparison of the Bratislava drawing with at least two sheets from the Albertina in Vienna (Christ among the Doctors, Inv. No. 2505, and especially Arrival of Christ in Jerusalem, Inv. No. 42134). The second of these drawings was used as a foundation for the fresco in the choir in the Cremona cathedral, executed by Bernardino in 1573. I believe that the dating in the seventies of the cinquecento should be given even to the Bratislava drawing and it should be regarded as an authentic work of Bernardino Campi. The real qualities of the drawing are now of course a little handicapped by its poor present-day condition.

In a similar way, I date in the seventies another drawing, which I originally considered to have originated in the circle of Domenichino in Bologna. Far closer to truth, however, it is that it is a work by another member of the Campi family of painters, Antonio (1523, Cremona – 1587, Cremona). A typical sheet captures the details of hands and feet in various positions together with a boy’s (?) and a girl’s (?) face. An unusual element here is a diminutive drawing of a fish and a partly legible text “Il muso aquaceto” (“mouth of a whale”). The precision of the execution, the combination of black and white chalks, and the fine hatching of the light, in shadowed parts with emphasis on the volumes of the details, all this points to a good, experienced draughtsman, inclining toward the tradition of Cremona drawing in the second half of the cinquecento. Almost identical sketches occur in the Clary-Aldringen collection of drawings in Teplice as well in the drawings coming from the same source but now held in the NG in Prague. A distinct, strong similitude links the Bratislava drawing, incidentally, executed on bluish paper like the other drawings, with the Prague sheets (Inv. Nos. K 57572, K 57571) or those in the Regional Museum in Teplice (Inv. Nos. CA 514, CA 518). A similar series of analogies is found in the group of Antonio’s drawings from the Florentine Gabinetto disegni e stampe degli Uffizi (Inv. Nos. 13497 F, 2098 F, 13493 F, etc.). I still put an interrogation mark to the attribution to Antonio Campi because of the adjustment of the sheet in the mount so that the verso was not examined. The poorly legible texts also lack a logical explanation.

In number of drawings, the work of Antonio Maria Viani (1555/1560, Cremona – 1630, Mantova) is best represented in the Bratislava set. It is notably the study of the figure of Christ the Judge, obviously associated with the monumental paintings in the dome of the church of S. Pietro al Po in Cremona. The combination of pen, black chalk and zinc white, and the loose penwork rank this not very large sheet clearly with the fairly numerous drawings by Antonio Maria Viani, directly linked with the interior decoration of the church in Cremona. Abundance of material for comparison is provided by Viani’s drawings from the surviving album from the Clary-Aldringen collection in the Teplice Chateau. The Bratislava drawing is a partial study of the central figure of Christ the Judge from the Last Judgment, executed in the first decade of the seicento by Orazio Lamberti (1552 – 1612) in the dome of S. Pietro al Po in Cremona, to the design, after the drawings and obviously with participation of A. M. Viani.

An identical figure of Christ the Judge is found in the sketch for the dome painting, which is preserved in the album in the Regional Museum in Teplice (Inv. No. CA 679). While the Teplice drawing is a design of the entire decoration of one part of the dome, our drawing is only a study of the central figure. What they share, however, is the spontaneity and relaxed character of the quick sketch. The general attitude of the figure of Christ the Judge with his raised right arm and with crouched legs is obviously derived from the same Michelangeloesque type in the painting of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel (1537 – 1541), probably through the print documenting the famous composition. In the execution of the painting in the dome, the painter, however, covered the lower part of the figure with a flowing drapery.

Both the motif and its execution allow the dating of the Bratislava drawing, like of the Teplice drawing, in the short period of 1602 – 1603, when the majority of Viani’s designs for the decoration of the dome of S. Pietro al Po in Cremona was made.

With the large composition of the Last Judgment is immediately connected a group of another thirteen drawings by Viani, now kept in the SNG in Bratislava.

The first seven drawings are done on a paper cut to the shape of segments corresponding to the curves in the lower part of the dome of S. Pietro al Po, where Orazio Lamberti (1532 – 1612) with Antonio Maria Viani executed the large fresco of the Last Judgment. The drawings themselves, distinguished by the combined technique of black chalk, a white, and pen, but particularly by the basic contours in the rendition of the bodies and by the typical defining of volumes, are indisputably the work of A. M. Viani. Evidence for that is supplied by abundant comparative material, which was produced for the same occasion and is now concentrated in the so-called Teplice album. Adding the quadrature to the segments allows the hypothesis that these were preparatory drawings for the lower strip in the Last Judgment with the episodes of the fall of the sinners. The execution of the painting of the Last Judgment in S. Pietro al Po is basically defined by the first decade of the seicento, and most of Viani’s designs may date from 1602 – 1603. A detailed study of the paintings is difficult because of their poor visual accessibility and because of their rather poor condition. In a comparison of the individual part of the painting of the Last Judgment and the sketches by Viani, only very few direct analogies may be discovered to prove direct following and respecting of the original sketches. If this series of sketches was used, then in details only – the whole set rather makes the impression of being mere sketches, later used only with considerable corrections. There is, however, no doubt, that Viani is the artist who made these drawings.

Likewise, in the second set of six drawings, the preserved album from the former Clary-Aldringen collection provides enough material for comparison to make us free to attribute the six drawings to Antonio Maria Viani. The treatment and form of the segments are basically a repetition of the previous set, only the subject being different. Whereas the previous set illustrates the fall of the condemned sinners, that is designs for the outer edge of the lower part of the dome, this set depicts the chosen and righteous ones, who are placed nearer to the centre of the composition of the Last Judgment. Viani’s painterly treatment is no different, both sets are technically and artistically identical, and the same holds for the dating of the sketches in the short period of 1602 – 1603. In a comparison of the drawings and the executed painting, some agreements are found in the grouping of the scenes, there are identities in various figural types, in postures or attributes, but the overall solution is somewhat different – it might be called a little simplified. As a matter of fact, fairly great changes between the sketch and the executed painting appear also in another fairly large group of Viani’s drawings made for the same occasion.

The entire Bratislava set of Viani’s drawings plus the still larger collection preserved in the album of the Regional Museum in Teplice is evidence of Antonio Maria Viani’s meticulous preparation for the execution of the large decoration in the dome of S. Pietro al Po in Cremona, with the subject of the Last Judgment. In spite of the small number of drawings owned by the SNG in Bratislava, and in spite of the relatively short continuity in collecting, a really high-quality collection was assembled, and a detailed survey of old Italian drawings may bring many a surprising discovery. Its part connected with the art of drawing in the cinquecento in Cremona, as defined by the names of its main protagonists, is evidence of that.

English translation by J. Peprník