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The head of the Virgin with the Annunciation

The head of the Virgin with the Annunciation
signed ‘BPassarotto. F.’ (‘BP’ in ligature) (lower right)
pen and brown ink, gray wash (added later)
18 x 14 1⁄2 in. (46 cm x 36.5 cm)
Egnazio Danti (1536-1586), Rome.
Probably Canons Regular of S. Salvatore, Bologna.
Probably Dominco Grossi, Bologna.
August Grahl (1791-1868), Dresden (L. 1199).
Felix Becker (1864-1928), Leipzig.
with R.E.A. Wilson, London (Catalogue of Drawings by Old Masters and Modern Artists, 1934, no. 103, ill.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 25 March 1965, lot 59.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, New York, 30 January 1997, lot 14.
V. Borghini, Il Riposo, Florence 1584, p. 566.
C. C. Malvasia, Felsina pittrice, Bologna, 1678, II, p. 245.
A. Bolognini-Amorini, Vite dei pittori ed artefici bolognesi, Bologna, 1841-1845, I, p. 92.
F. Becker, Handzeichnungen alter Meister in Privatsammlungen. Fünfzig bisher nicht veröffentliche Originalzeichnungen des XV. bis XVIII Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1922, p. 13, ill.
Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani dallXI al XX secolo, Turin, 1975, VIII, p. 362.
M. Fanti, ‘Spigolature d’archivio per la storia dell’arte a Bologna’, Il Carrobbio, IV, 1978, pp. 193-194.
M. Daly Davis, ‘Beyond the ‘Primo Libro’ of Vincenzo Dati’s Trattato delle Perfette Proporzioni’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, XXVI, 1982, no. 1, p. 83, n. 101.
S. Brink, ‘Fra Egnazio Danti, das Programm der Sala Vecchia degli Svizzeri im Vatikan und C. Ripas Iconologia’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, XXVII, 1983, no. 2, pp. 240-241.
C. Höper, Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592), Worms, 1987, II, no. Z186.
A. Ghirardi, Bartolomeo Passerotti pittore (1529-1592). Catalogo generale, Rimini, 1990, no. 55b, ill.
F. A. den Broeder, Old Master Drawings from the Collection of Joseph F. McCrindle, exhib. cat., Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, and elsewhere, 1991-1992, p. 46, under no. 14, ill.
B. Bohn, ‘Felsina collezionista. The creation of finished drawings in Sixteenth Century Bologna’, Studi di Storia dell’Arte, V-VI, 1994-1995, p. 195.
S. Tumidei, ‘Alessandro Menganti e le arti a Bologna nella seconda metà del Cinquecento. Alla ricerca di un contesto,’ in Il Michelangelo incognito. Alessandro Menganti e le arti a Bologna nell’età della Controriforma, exhib. cat., Bologna, Museo civico medievale, 2002, p. 102.
F. Francesca, ‘Danti Edits Vignola. The Formation of a Modern Classic on Perspective’, in The Treatise on Perspective. Published and Unpublished. Papers Presented at the First Kress-Murphy Symposium Held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and New Haven, 2003, p. 142.
A. Ghirardi, ‘Sotto il segno del Vignola. Bartolomeo Passerotti e Egnazio Danti a Bologna’, in La percezione e la rappresentazione dello spazio a Bologna e in Romagna nel Rinascimento fra teoria e prassi, Bologna, 2007, pp. 127-130, ill.
L. Giles in Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, 2014, p. 105, under no. 43, ill.
Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, 500 Years of Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum, 2014 (no catalogue).

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Lot Essay

This monumental sheet has a well-documented provenance from the time it was owned by the Domenican friar and polymath Egnazio Danti, who became acquaintances with Passarotti during his stay in Bologna between 1576 and 1580, when he lectured at the university on geometry and astronomy. At that time, in 1577, Passarotti painted an engaging portrait of Danti in the act of teaching (Brest, Musée Municipal, inv. 981.14.1). As stated by Passarotti’s first biographer, Vincenzo Borghini, Danti owned the drawing, together with its pendant with Christ wearing the crown of thorns, now in the Princeton University Art Museum (inv. 1999-1; see Giles, Markey and Van Cleave, op. cit., no. 43, ill.); Borghini describes the two heads as ‘finite in tutta perfettione con la penna’ (op. cit.). It is not known if the drawings were commissioned by Danti or if they were rather a gift from Passarotti to his friend. It has been suggested that the two images were once drawn on a single large sheet, described by Borghini as a foglio imperiale (circa 50 x 74 cm), and only later cut in half (see Ghirardi, op. cit., 2007, p. 128).

The highly finished representation of the Virgin is an extraordinary example of disegno finito, a kind of independent drawing produced by Passarotti and highly sought after by collectors’ in his own time (see Bohn, op. cit., pp. 52-79). Next to the Virgin’s head are drawn two halves of a medallion with the scene of the Annunciation. Similar scenes inscribed within half medallions are seen in three largev sheets with profiles of Roman emperors now in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (inv. 1346-1348; see Höper, op. cit., II, pp. 187-188, ill.). The inclusion of the medallion may be related to Passarotti’s interest in antiquities, of which he was an avid collector.

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