Apparently unrecorded, this exquisite work is a preparatory sketch for a sleeping soldier in Ubaldo Gandolfi's monumental fresco of the Resurrection, painted in the eleventh chapel of the Portico di San Luca, Bologna (see fig. 1).
The rebuilt Basilica of San Luca was consecrated in 1765 and in the same year those responsible for the Portico that leads to the Basilica asked the Accademia Clementina to have the eleventh chapel redecorated. In August of the same year Ubaldo Gandolfi was commissioned to carry out this work, now quite damaged, finishing it just over a year later.
An oil on canvas sketch (79 x 58 cm.) for the whole composition survives in the Pinacoteca, Bologna, as well as another on paper (34 x 46 cm: slightly larger than the present work) of a reclining figure in the lower left of the fresco (see P. Bagni, I Gandolfi, Bologna, 1992, p. 631, no. 605 (for the fresco), p. 632, no. 606 and p. 633, no. 607). The latter sketch, now in a private collection, has been identified with that given by marchese Gregorio Casali to the Accademia Clementina, and described in his will (along with the sketch of the whole fresco) as 'il quadro representante il mistero della Resurrezione che vedesi nella celletta della Accademia dei Portici di S. Luca ed il quadretto in carta, con vetro e cornice, il quale contiene una delle figure del bozzetto medesimo. L'uno e l'altro sono originali del sig. Ubaldo Gandolfi.' It is presumably also possible that the present, rediscovered work is in fact the latter bozzetto, mentioned in Casali's will.
In the preparation of a work of such importance and monumental size, with his spontaneous touch and use of fluid brushstrokes in a muted palette, Gandolfi here achieves a work of intimacy and great charm.