Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century
RMN-Grand Palais - Photo T. Le Mage
Prints and Drawings
Pietro da Cortona was commissioned to produce an altar painting for the church of San Francesco in Cortone, where the work is still kept. The Alfieri family requested an Annunciation for its own chapel, for which the Louvre drawing is a preparatory study. This drawing is very close to the painted version and already presents the characteristic, recurring features of this artist, one of the most significant figures of the Baroque period in Rome.
The shadow of the Heavenly Father
In the top left of the drawing are the head and shoulders of the Heavenly Father, shown watching the encounter between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin. A group of cherubs in the upper right of the drawing features as a counterpoint and gives the scene its balance. The angel in the center is depicted with flowing hair and abundant drapery falling in folds, a model often used by the artist. The Virgin, in the far right of the drawing, is shown in a timid, discreet pose. Her gestures and expression reflect both the artist's respect of traditional pictorial representation and his exceptional skill in rendering a sense of humility. These two figures and one of the cherubs were executed with more precision and meticulousness than the rest of the composition: the hatching technique emphasizes the volumes and the rendering of the body and dense lines convey the visual effects of chiaroscuro. The clouds filling the empty space around the figures lend a floating atmosphere to the drawing. The background landscape is not visible, but some trees have been sketched on the left, opening up a visual perspective.
In the Alfieri chapel
The painting was first mentioned by Luca Berettini in 1866, who attributed it to Pietro Berettini. Executed around 1665, this painting still hangs in its original location in the Alfieri chapel in the church of the Franciscans. The Louvre drawing is generally dated to the same period as the painted version. An initial red-chalk drawing, now kept in Vienna's Albertina, differs from the one in the Louvre, which is more studied and well thought out. However, the difference between the principal figures and the others, whose quickly traced lines suggest a sketched composition, supports the hypothesis that this drawing is unfinished. Yet it is a relatively elaborate work, showing Pietro da Cortona's mastery in bringing out the fundamental elements of a scene. His rendering of fabrics and facial expressions underscore the artist's exceptional skill.
BibliographyBriganti G., Pietro da Cortona o della pittura barocca, Florence, 1982, p. 266-267.
Ormesson-Peugeot D., in La Rome baroque de Maratti à Piranèse, Paris, 1990-1991, n 1.
Pietro Berettini, known as Pietro da Cortona (1596/1599-1669)
Pen, brown ink, black chalk marks on paper glued directly onto the backing paper, squared
H. 42.9 cm; W. 32.4 cm
Saint-Morys Collection; seizure of the property of the Émigrés in 1793, transferred to the Louvre in 1796-97
Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.