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Work Two studies of a woman carrying a child, half-body view

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Deux études d'une femme portant un enfant, vue à mi-corps

RMN-Grand Palais - Photo T. Querrec

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Author(s):
Boyer Sarah

From 1612 to 1615, Domenichino worked on the cycle of five frescoes devoted to the life of Saint Cecilia for the Polet Chapel of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. This drawing, a study for the figures of the woman carrying a child on the right in the Saint Cecilia Giving Alms, of which Mariette made an engraving, features a technique characteristic of studies in which the artist establishes the final positions of figures.

From Bologna to Rome: the Carracci

After studying humanities in Bologna, Zampieri, known as Domenichino, briefly joined the Calvaert workshop, then, in about 1595, the Carracci school, the Accademia degli Incamminati. In 1602, he followed Reni, Lanfranco, and Albani to Rome to work under Annibale Carracci. From 1606 to 1610, he executed several projets for the Farnese family: three ceiling paintings for the loggia of the palace garden, the frescoes of the gallery, and the decoration of the Cappella dei Santi Fondatori in the abbey of Grottaferrata. After the death of Annibale in 1609, he received his most important commissions: the Last Communion of Saint Jerome (Rome, Musei Vaticani, 1614) and the Saint Cecilia cycle.

The Glorification of Saint Cecilia

The cycle comprises five scenes from the life of the saint, three of which are on the vault. Martyred in the second or third century, this virgin became increasingly popular following the discovery of her miraculously preserved body under the altar of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. A fine example of hand-eye coordination that reflects Domenichino's interest in the distribution of shadow in the fresco, this drawing suggests movement within the space, filtering light with almost atmospheric effects. The dark areas are simply but effectively represented with parallel, uniform lines traced on the gray paper. The structure of the limbs and clothing of the figures is rendered by series of superimposed lines, while the less important parts are rendered by isolated, spontaneous lines. Short dashes of chalk mark the eyes, nose and mouth in a minimal fashion, particularly on the back of the drawing.

Cartoons and preparatory drawings

The Louvre has a drawing depicting three figures in black chalk with chalk highlights, a preparatory sketch for Saint Cecilia's servants in the fresco. On the front is the young servant carrying a chest; on the back, the servant depicted on the far right. The museum also has two cartoons for this cycle: one, complete and well preserved, for the Apotheosis of Saint Cecilia; the other, fragmentary, showing the right-hand part of the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. In his compositions, Domenichino sought to convey real "affetti" (feelings) in the gestures and expressions of his figures, organizing his observations along predefined lines of composition. The naturalistic crowd of beggars reflects the influence of Raphael in the unbroken contours of the figures and the Greco-Roman influence in the bas-relief composition in the Saint Cecilia Before the Judge.

Bibliography

Posner D., Domenichino and Lanfranco : the early development of Baroque painting in Rome, New-York, [s.n.], [s.d.].
Spear R. E., Domenichino, New Haven, Londres, Yale university Press, 1982, pp. 145 - 155, n 42.
Le dessin à Rome au XVIIe siècle, cat. exp. Paris, Musée du Louvre, 24 mars-6 juin 1988, Paris, Ed. de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, n 56.
Mahon Sir D., Classicismo e natura : la lezione di Domenichino, cat. exp. Rome, Musei Capitolini, 15 novembre 1996-2 février 1997, Rome, Editoriale Giorgio Mondadori, Selegrafica 80' , [1996].
Loisel C., Tantillo A., in Domenichino 1581-1641, cat. exp. Rome, Museo di Palazzo Venezia, 10 octobre 1996-14 janvier 1997, n 61.
Kessler L. B., Lanfranco and Domenichino : the concept of style in the early development of Baroque painting in Rome, Ann Arbor (Michigan), UMI, 1998.

Technical description

  • Domenico Zampieri, known as Domenichino

    Two studies of a woman carrying a child, half-body view

    Between 1612 and 1615

  • Black chalk heightened with white on gray paper

    H. 32 cm; W. 22.3 cm

  • Francesco Angeloni (?) Collection; Pierre Mignard Collection; Antoine and Charles-Antoine Coypel Collections; Cabinet du Roi, 1752

    399093

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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