• Brian Sewell - Critic & Collec auction at Christies

    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 7

    Daniele Ricciarelli, called Daniele da Volterra (Volterra 1509-1566)

    Dido reclining, asleep

    Price Realised  

    Daniele Ricciarelli, called Daniele da Volterra (Volterra 1509-1566)
    Dido reclining, asleep
    black chalk, watermark crossbow in a circle (Briquet 749, Lucca, 1548), unframed
    13 x 18 1/8 in. (33.2 x 45.9 cm.)

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    This large and highly finished study relates to Daniele's bronze sculpture - of almost identical size to the figure in the drawing (18 x 42.1 x 18.5 cm.) - now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (Fig. 1; Inv. 64/24; P. Joannides, op. cit., p. 819, fig. 43). The figure also appears in a painting by (or after) Daniele da Volterra, showing Aeneas commanded by Mercury to leave Dido, present whereabouts unknown (Fig. 2; P. Barolsky, op. cit., no. 19).

    A painter as well as a sculptor, Daniele often cast bronze models in preparation for his pictures. These sculptures, maybe even more than his paintings, display the powerful influence of Michelangelo (1475-1564), for whom Daniele probably cast a bronze of Samson killing two Philistines. Daniele used his casts to explore compositions in great detail through drawings, presumably to test which viewpoints would best suit the final painting. The present drawing is such an instance and it follows the Munich bronze with precision. While the bronze was acquired by the museum as by Adriaen de Vries (circa 1556–1626), it was correctly identified as being by Daniele by Professor Paul Joannides in his 1993 Burlington Magazine article.

    The drawing displays Daniele's extraordinarily delicate technique; the shadows are indicated with very fine hatching and the body is modulated with such fine lines that they almost dissolve and give the figure a sculptural quality. It primarily focuses on the figure of Dido, indicating the bed, its pillows and mattress - fully shown in the sculpture and in the painting - with quick sketchy lines. The picture, first published by Hermann Voss in 1922, shows the figure of Dido almost unaltered asleep in an interior, with Mercury swooping down urging Aeneas to leave (H. Voss, 'Ein wiedergefundenes Bild des Daniele da Volterra', Kunstchronik, XXIV, 1922-23, pp. 375-8). This painting has since its publication been generally identified as a copy after a lost original by Daniele, described by Vasari in his Vite. According to Vasari, a painting of the rare Virgilian subject was commissioned in late 1555 or 1556 by Giovanni della Casa (G. Vasari [edited by G. Milanesi], Le Opere.., Florence, VII, 1906, p. 63), and this drawing no doubt dates from this period.

    The large number of studies for the painting are testimony to the care that Daniele took in preparing it. While we have here the only surviving drawing of Dido, there are five studies for the child assisting Aeneas to disrobe. A large and highly finished drawing, the figures very close to the painting, is in the Albertina (Inv. 497; V. Birke and J. Kertész, Die Italienischen Zeichnungen der Albertina, Vienna, Cologne and Weimar, 1992, I, pp. 278-9). It is of similar size (52,2 x 35 cm.) and technique to the Sewell drawing and shows the same refinement of handling. A drawing related both in style and subject to the Albertina sheet, which was used for a detail in The Baptism of Christ in the S. Pietro in Montorio, Rome (executed by Daniele's assistant Michele Alberti), is in Musée Fabre, Montpellier (Inv. 870.1.182; E. Pagliano, op. cit., no. 30). Four further smaller sized sketches for Aeneas and the child are known; two in the British Museum (Inv. 1956-10-13-13 and 1976-5-15-2); another in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (Inv. RP-T-1959.268); and the fourth in the Courtauld Institute, London (PG 425 verso) (see E. Pagliano, op. cit., figs. 3-5, 11). The latter is the verso of a drawing of the subject drawn by Michelangelo and Daniele seems to have traced it through the recto. Another drawing by Michelangelo showing the same group, but with Dido just discernable in the background, is in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem (Inv. 32 A; E. Pagliano, op. cit., fig. 9). It has been suggested that, while Daniele was struggling with the subject, Michelangelo supplied drawings to inspire him just as he had done earlier for Sebastiano del Piombo (circa 1485-1547).


    Possibly Filippo Buonarroti (1761-1839), descendant of Michelangelo; from whom acquired by
    J.-B.-J. Wicar (1762-1834).
    Possibly Samuel Woodburn; Christie's, London, 4 June 1860, lot 141 (as Michelangelo [...] 'A Female Figure Reclining: A Model for the Tomb of the Medici. Exquisitely finished in black chalk, and of the highest quality. From the Collections of Buonaroti and Vicar.'; sold for 18 gns to Col[naghi]).
    William Russell (L. 2648); Christie's, London, 10 December 1884, lot 282 (as Michelangelo [...] 'Study of a female sleeping - black chalk'; sold for 55 gns to [J.C.] Robinson) (The drawing cited by Lugt, p. 500).
    Sir John Charles Robinson (L. 1433 and L. 2141b), with his inscription 'From/ W Russell's/ collection/ JCRobinson/ 1885' (on a patch of paper added to the verso).
    Sir Robert Mond.
    Purchased by Brian Sewell in 1963 or earlier.


    T. Borenius and R. Wittkower, Catalogue of the Collection of Drawings by the Old Masters formed by Sir Robert Mond, London, 1937, no. 213, Pl. XXXVI, as after Daniele da Volterra).
    S.H. Levie, Der Maler Daniele da Volterra: 1509-1566, Ph.D., University of Basel, 1962, pp. 135 and 189.
    P. Barolsky, Daniele da Volterra: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1979, under no. 19.
    J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Artists working in Rome: c. 1550 to c. 1640, London, 1983, under no. 92.
    P. Joannides, 'Daniele da Volterra's ''Dido'', The Burlington Magazine, CXXXV, 1993, no. 1089, pp. 818-9, fig. 42.
    V. Krahn, in Von allen seiten schön: Bronzen der Renaissance und des Barock, exhib. cat., Berlin, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin and Preußischer Kulturbesitz im Alten Museum, 1995-96, under no. 74, note 2.
    V. Romani, Daniele da Volterra: Amico di Michelangelo, exhib. cat., Florence, Casa Buonarroti, 2003-4, under no. 41, fig. 90.
    R.P. Cirardi and B. Moreschini, Daniele Ricciarelli: da Volterra a Roma, Milan, 2004, p. 240, ill.
    E. Pagliano, in L’atelier de l’oeuvre. Dessins italiens du musée Fabre, exhib. cat., Montpellier, Musée Fabre, 2013, pp. 142 and 148, note 17, ill. p. 151, under no. 30.