Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, Il Morazzone (Morazzone 1573-1625/1626)
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Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, Il Morazzone (Morazzone 1573-1625/1626)

Studies for Christ before Caiaphas

Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, Il Morazzone (Morazzone 1573-1625/1626)
Studies for Christ before Caiaphas
with ink inscription ‘morazone’ and with numbers ‘36’ and ‘52’ (recto) and with ink inscription ‘L.30.’ (verso of the mount)
black chalk heightened with white on grey-blue paper, trimmed irregularly
10 3/8 x 15 1/8 in. (26.4 x 38.5 cm)
Count Giulio Litta-Visconti-Arese.
Umberto Osio (1891-1967), Milan.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 25 March 1969, lot 102 (1100 gns. to Hans Calmann for Robert Landolt).
N. Ward Neilson, [review of Giulio Bora, Il Seicento lombardo. Catalogo dei disegni, libri, stampe, exhib. cat., Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, 1973], Master Drawings, XII, 1974, p. 59.
J. Herbert, ed., Christie's Review of the Year 1968/1969, London, 1969, p. 67.
J. Stoppa, Il Morazzone, Milan, 2003, p. 195.
Zurich, Graphische Sammlung ETH, Zwiegespräch mit Zeichnungen. Werke des 15. bis 18. Jahrhunderts aus der Sammlung Robert Landolt, 2013-2014, no. 30, ill. (catalogue entry by M. Matile).
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Lot Essay

Modulated with forceful use of black chalk in combination with subtle white highlights, this ‘remarkably beautiful drawing’ (Ward Neilson, op. cit.) is a study for the fresco Christ before Caiaphas in the Cappella della Flagellazione on the Sacro Monte di Varese (Fig. 1). The construction of the chapel, the seventh of fourteen along the Sacred Way leading to the cloister of Monache Romite Ambrosiane on the Sacro Monte, began in 1606. The construction was commissioned by the brothers Francesco and Girolamo Litta to honour their sister who was a nun in the cloister. It was not until September 1608, however, that Morazzone began working on the frescoes which he finished in the summer of the following year (see Stoppa, op. cit., p. 191). The centre of the chapel features an exceptional life-size terracotta group by Martino Retti di Viganello showing the flagellation of Christ which is surrounded by Morazzone’s frescoes, now partly damaged, showing Christ before Caiaphas, Ecce Homo, and Christ being taken to his flagellation (see Stoppa, ibid., figs. 19i, 19j and 19k).

Morazzone took great care in preparing the frescoes, as evident from by his studies for them. He laid out the composition for Christ before Caiaphas in a drawing, also executed in black chalk and white heightening on blue paper but smaller than the present sheet, now in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan (inv. 1415; see ibid., fig. 19n). In the present drawing, Morazzone studied the gestures, posture and drapery of the figures in further detail. Caiaphas is shown with his legs in a different posture from that in the fresco which could indicate that it was made before the Ambrosiana drawing, in which the figure corresponds more closely with the fresco. In the centre and upper right the figures surrounding Caiaphas in the fresco are studied and at far right the elongated, almost Tintorettesque, figure of Christ appears with a loosely indicated halo.

The drawing ranks among the most refined, powerful and expressive surviving sheets by the artist. Morazzone’s figures float gracefully on the page, the surrounding spaces indicated by rapid hatching. Further studies for the frescoes in the Cappella della Flagellazione are in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan (for Christ being taken to his flagellation; inv. 1411; see ibid., fig. 19p), the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg (for Ecce Homo; inv. 7201; ibid; fig. 19o) and in the Louvre, Paris (also for Ecce Homo; inv. 14167; see ibid., fig. 19q). The latter drawing is particularly close in quality, approach and execution to the present sheet. Stoppa lists a further six drawings with doubtful attributions that relate to the frescoes, one of them to Christ before Caiaphas (ibid., p. 195, fig. 19r).

While the present drawing does not bear the blind stamp of the Litta-Visconti Arese family, the fact it was owned by Umberto Osio, who owned a large part of the Litta-Visconti-Arese collection, does suggest that the drawing was part of that collection. It is not unlikely that the drawing found its way, possibly with other studies for the frescoes, to the brothers who commissioned them. As Robert Landolt has suggested (in his typescript catalogue), the number on the verso could have been that from a member of the Litta-Visconti-Arese family and indeed, one wonders whether the attribution or numbers on the recto could have been applied by a family member too (a similar, early attribution can be found on the sheet in the Louvre discussed above). Another drawing by Morazzone from this collection was sold in the 1969 sale (A draped figure seen from behind, lot 103).

Fig. 1. Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, Il Morazzone, Christ before Caiaphas, fresco, Cappella della Flagellazione, Sacro Monte di Varese.

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