A powerful study in red chalk by the Neapolitan master Aniello Falcone made in preparation for the soldier, seen at far left recovering behind a horse in his fresco, Battle of the Israelites and the Amalekites, at Villa Roomer (now Villa Rodinò di Miglione), Barra, near Naples (Fig. 1; see A. Blunt, ‘A Frescoed Ceiling by Aniello Falcone’, The Burlington Magazine, CXI, no. 1793, April 1969, pp. 214-5 and A. Alabiso, ‘Aniello Falcone’s Frescoes in the Villa of Gaspar Roomer at Barra’, The Burlington Magazine, CXXXI, no. 1030, January 1989, pp. 30-6). A crucially important commission - and one of only three surviving frescoes executed by Falcone - the decorative cycle at Barra was commissioned by the Flemish banker Gaspar Roomer and executed likely between 1640 and 1643, as proven by two streams of payments issued to the artist on 9 July and 28 May respectively (for these documents, E. Nappi, ‘Le attività finanziarie e sociali di Gasparo de Roomer’, in Ricerche sul ‘600 napoletano: saggi e documenti, Naples, 2001, p. 83, nos. 229-30 and especially Farina, op. cit., pp. 96-7 for Falcone’s chronology at Barra).
Marking an important addition to the artist’s catalogue of preparatory drawings (Farina, op. cit.), the present work relates in style and technique to a celebrated study done by Falcone for the same endeavor, the Head in Profile to the Left now in the Morgan Library (inv. I, 107, see Blunt, op. cit., p. 215, fig. 39), which possibly depicts the same model. Through a masterly use of red chalk - the artist’s characteristic medium – Falcone conveyed the figure’s dynamic yet classical pose, which closely resembles the ancient prototype of the Ludovisi Dying Gaul (Capitoline Museums, Rome), a work possibly known to the artist from his time in Rome.
Fig. 1. Aniello Falcone, Battle of the Israelites and the Amalekites, Barra (Naples), Villa Rodinò di Miglione