Few drawings by the prolific and imaginative draughtsman Orsi speak as clearly of his admiration for Correggio. Directly inspired by his illustrious Emilian predecessor’s celebrated Madonna della Scodella (Galleria Nazionale, Parma; see lot 29, Fig. 1), Orsi’s composition, like that of Correggio, shows the Holy Family at the Rest on the Flight to Egypt, with Saint Joseph offering a handful of dates which the angels in the tree top have helped him harvest. At left in Orsi’s drawing, Saint Anthony Abbot – with his attribute, the bell – admires the Christ Child, who smiles at the viewer.
Hailed as ‘one of the most interesting recent additions to the corpus of drawings by the artist’ when it was first exhibited in the 1980s (exhib. cat., Reggio Emilia, op. cit., p. 196), the Bloxam sheet has been dated by Vittoria Romani to the first half of the 1570s, which makes it a work from the end of the artist’s long career. The dense penwork, supple hatching and general horror vacui, although present in other works by him, here reach a level of exceptional sophistication and vigour. The drawing has not been connected with any painting or other finished work, and must have been made as an independent work of art.