Giovanni Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)
Giovanni Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)

Venus disarming Cupid

Giovanni Francesco Maria Mazzola, il Parmigianino (1503-1540)
Venus disarming Cupid
black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash heightened with white on pink prepared paper
169 x 146 mm.
A.M. Zanetti, who sold it to
Mr. Hickman.
Nathaniel Hillier (see L. 1974a).
Earl Spencer (L. 1530).
Sir Thomas Lawrence (L. 2445).
P.-J. Mariette, Abcdario, ed. P. de Chennevires and A. de Montaiglon, Paris, 1851-1853 (reprinted 1966), III, p. 319.
A.E. Popham, The Drawings of Parmigianino, London, 1953, p. 34, note 3.
A.E. Popham, 'Dessins du Parmesan au Muse des Beaux-Arts de Budapest' in Bulletin du Muse national hongrois des Beaux-Art, 1961, XIX, p. 48.
A.E. Popham, Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 1971, no. 755, pl. 276.
T. Pignatti and F. Pedrocco, Veronese, Florence, 1991, (2nd edition, Paris, 1992), under no. 65.
T. Pignatti and F. Pedrocco, Veronese, Milan, 1995, under no. 135. From Leonardo to Van Gogh, exhib. cat., Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1985, under no. 11.
K. Achilles-Syndram, Das Praunsche Kabinett, exhib. cat., Nuremburg, Germanischen Nationalmuseum, 1994, under no. 118.

Lot Essay

A.E. Popham dates this sheet to the period 1527-1530, when Parmigianino was working in Bologna following his escape from the sack of Rome in 1527, The Drawings of Parmigianino, New Haven and London, 1971, under no. 30.
A similar composition, of the same subject but in reverse, is in Budapest (A.E. Popham, op. cit., no. 30, pl. 276), while six other less finished studies are known: three arranged as at Budapest with Cupid to the right of Venus, in Parma, London and another at Budapest (A.E. Popham, op. cit., nos. 539, 766 and 34, pls. 275, 277 and 278) and another in Parma in the same direction as the present sheet, A.E. Popham, op. cit., no. 541, pl. 277. A further two drawings, in Budapest and the cole des Beaux-Arts, Paris (A.E. Popham, op. cit., nos. 24 and 520, both pl. 278), show more complicated arrangements of the figures. In addition to this series of studies, a 16th Century drawing in the Louvre appears to be a copy after the present sheet, with a different arrangement of Venus' legs, A.E. Popham, op. cit., no. O.C.27, pl. 277. Sylvie Bguin has kindly pointed out that there is another 16th Century copy, formerly attributed to Primaticcio, in the Muse de Poitiers (inv. 882.1.288).
The composition was used by Paolo Veronese in a large picture of the subject sold at Christie's New York, 10 January 1990, lot 230 (T. Pignatti and F. Pedrocco, Veronese, Milan, 1995, no. 135). This work, dated to 1550-1660, is close to the present sheet, but extends the upper edge, and adds flowers to the window trellis. These same differences occur in a copy by Orazio Samacchini, of 1565-66 (Zagreb, Private Collection, V. Fortunati Pietrantonio, Pittura Bolognese del'500, Bologna, 1986, II, p. 660).
The drawing was probably intended to be reproduced as a chiaroscuro woodcut by a print-maker such as Antonio da Trento, Parmigianino's most noted collaborator in Bologna. The composition, with the addition of a herm on the left and a jug and tray on the right, was also engraved by an anonymous 16th Century hand, possibly G. Reverdy, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art presented to Anthony Blunt, London, 1967, VII, fig. 7. The use of two tones of brown wash on prepared paper is particularly suited to chiaroscuro, as is illustrated by a print of the drawing produced by the Englishman John Baptist Jackson in the 18th Century (fig. 1).
Pierre-Jean Mariette, in a discussion of prints by Schiavone after various Italian hands, mentions that a drawing of Venus disarming Cupid, almost certainly the present one, was sold by Antonio Maria Zanetti to Mr. Hickman, P.-J. Mariette, op. cit., p. 319. Since he also mentions the print by Le Sueur of 1731, the sale probably occurred during Zanetti's second visit to England in 1736. Hickman owned another drawing by Parmigianino, which he had bought from the Earl of Arundel's collection, and which he had engraved by Savage in 1733, A.E. Popham, op. cit., no. 9. Like the present drawing, this sheet was later in the Spencer Collection. Mariette adds that the print he had seen of the drawing was in bad condition and did not carry Schiavone's signature, and it is possible that he is referring to the engraving that A.E. Popham attributes to Reverdy, A.E. Popham, op. cit., under no. 755. Mariette seems to have known Hickman well. A note in his Abcdario records a paraphrase of a letter from Hickman giving details of several prints by Parmigianino from the dealer and collector Alfred Pond which were not in the catalogue that Mariette had compiled. Hickman adds, in recognition of Mariette's expertise in the field of prints, 'Il n'y a qu' Monsieur votre pre et vous que nous pouvons avoir recours, parce que la dcision d'un autre ne suffiroit pas dans cette occasion', P.-J. Mariette, op. cit., II, pp. 353-4.
A.E. Popham suggests that the present drawing is the one mentioned in Nathaniel Hillier's inventory of his collection of drawings which Popham discovered at the British Museum in 1954, A.E. Popham, op. cit., under no. 755.
Dr. Paul Joannides has kindly pointed out the close relationship between the figure of Venus in the present drawing and that of Eve in Michelangelo's Fall of Man from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

More from Old Master Drawings

View All
View All