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Work Seated nude youth, looking to the left, right leg bent

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Adolescent nu, assis, regardant à gauche, la jambe droite ployée

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Mancini Federica

The nude youth is a preparatory sketch for a figure in a fresco at the Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano, Tuscany. Pope Leo X, Lorenzo the Magnificent's son, commissioned the fresco to finish the project begun by his father. Work started on the villa in 1485. The sheet in the Louvre illustrates the artist's tireless effort to assimilate the influence of Andrea del Sarto and Michelangelo and incorporate them into his own style.

The Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano: a family project

Lorenzo the Magnificent commissioned Giuliano da Sangallo, one of the greatest of all Renaissance architects, to design the Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano. However, Lorenzo died in 1492 and the works were abandoned. In 1515, when the Medici family returned to power, finishing the antique-style villa became a priority. Lorenzo, as Duke of Urbino from 1492 to 1519 and then as Pope Leo X, supervised the completion of the building works and the decoration. Thanks to the support of Cardinal Giulio, later Pope Clement VII (1478-1534), Leo X was able to hire artists including Franciabigio, Andrea del Sarto, and Pontormo. Pontormo was hired to paint the frescoes on the two side walls in the Salone, the first and only room painted, since work was again interrupted by the death of Leo X in 1521. In 1531 Clement VII asked the artist to finish decorating the villa, but again the pope's sudden death put a stop to the project.

Vertumnus and Pomona

The design of the frescoes in the Salone was entrusted to Paolo Giovio (1486-1552), a personal friend of Leo X. The works were supervised by the Duke of Urbino and later by Ottaviano de' Medici because of his friendship with the artists and also because he was highly cultured and was thus able to ensure that the iconographic program was followed. The drawing in the Louvre is a preparatory study for one of the putti in the lunette featuring Vertumnus and Pomona. The scene is taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Vertumnus, the god of vegetation and fruit trees - thought to be Etruscan in origin - was the lover of the nymph Pomona. The nude youth drawn by Pontormo is the child carrying a banner sitting in the branches of the laurel to the right, above the oculus painted in trompe l'oeil in the center of the lunette. The preparatory drawing of the youth's counterpart on the left is on the reverse of the same sheet.

Andrea del Sarto and Michelangelo

The frescoes painted by Pontormo for the villa are regarded as masterpieces. Although the finished paintings show that the artist changed some details between the drawing stage and the final painting, such as the fact that the youths of the sketches become children in the painting, this study nonetheless demonstrates all the artistry of a trained and extremely talented draughtsman. He borrows his master Andrea del Sarto's style in the position of the figure, which fills the sheet, and in the successive outlines, off-center approximations of the finished sketch. However, he also is inspired by Michelangelo, using stump to soften the picture, adding a touch of light to the body, and rendering the muscles in detail. The ignudi on the vault of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican seem to have been a particular influence on both this nude youth and his counterpart on the reverse of the sheet.

Bibliography

Viatte François, in Collections de Louis XIV : Dessins, albums, manuscrits, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1977, notice 33.
Cordellier D., in Hommage à Andrea del Sarto : LXXXVIIIe exposition du Cabinet des dessins, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000, p. 112-113.
Costamagna Ph., Pontormo : catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peinte, Gallimard-Electa, 1994, p. 152-159.
Fasano A., in Posséder et détruire : stratégies sexuelles dans l'art d'Occident, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000, p. 51-53, 273, repr. 46.

Technical description

  • Jacopo Carucci, known as Pontormo (1494-1556 or 1557)

    Seated nude youth, looking to the left, right leg bent

    1519-21

  • Black chalk and stump, traces of white heightening

    H. 41.2 cm; L. 27.5 cm

  • Everhard Jabach collection; acquired for the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities, 1671

    392903

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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