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Homme assis, la tête penchée

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Grollemund Hélène

Acquired in 1995, this drawing bears an old attribution to Alonso Berruguete, one of the greatest Spanish artists of the 16th century. The extreme rarity of Berruguete's original drawings and those of the Spanish school of the first half of the 16th century add to the value of a work whose highly distinctive spirit and style are the marks of an artist who spent many years in Italy.

Echoes of Michelangelo

The subject's body turns on itself in a way that accentuates the introversion of the pose. Nonetheless the gestures retain a certain elegance, to which the long, tapering fingers contribute. The figure is at rest, but the sharpness and clarity of the contours give it a real inner élan. The hair, tangled or loosely combed, and the fine, regular facial features are to be found in such other drawings by Berruguete as the Christ the Savior in the Uffizi in Florence and the group of figures in the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Stylistic comparison with the influences on his drawn oeuvre points up the dexterity and finesse of the hatching, the energy and tension of the undulating forms, and, above all, the spiral movement of the bodies; all of these are also present in his painting and sculpture. The use of black ink for fine cross-hatching comes mainly from the Italian Renaissance masters Parmigianino and, especially, Michelangelo. In addition to the many pronounced stylistic affinities, Berruguete seized the deep significance of Michelangelo's art, in which he had immersed himself during his Italian years (c. 1507-18): energy and instability pushed to their limits, but kept in check by a personal mode of expression.

A mature drawing

This figure readily takes its place among the best of the artist's original drawings, most of which date from his time in Toledo, c. 1540-50. There is a connection here with Berruguete's work in the choir of Toledo Cathedral, one of the city's most ambitious undertakings in the 16th century. Berruguete's presence on the site is documented from 1537 onwards: he was charged with completing the choir by sculpting the archbishop's throne and the Transfiguration group above the stalls. While this Seated Man cannot be exactly linked to any of the figures in the Toledo choir, we do find the same treatment of the hands, tendons, and tapering fingers, the same hair, the same placing of the legs - knees slightly bent, ankles crossed - in the figure of Job on one of the choir's oak panels. However, these resemblances do not necessarily mean that this is a mature work, as our knowledge of the earlier drawings remains limited.

Bibliography

L. Boubli, Inventaire général des dessins: Ecole espagnole XVIe-XVIIIe siècle, Pari : RMN, 2002, no. 4
L. Boubli, "'Magnífico mastre Alonso Berruguete': introduction à l'étude de son oeuvre graphique", in Revue de l'art, no. 103, 1994, pp.11-322

Technical description

  • Alonso Berruguete (Paredes de Nava, 1486-90-Toledo, 1561)

    Seated man with head bent

    c. 1540-50

  • Pen and black ink on beige laid paper glued onto another drawing

    H. 26.5 cm; W. 15 cm

  • Francisco de Solis (?) in the 17th century. Sale, Monaco, Christie's, June 30, 1995, no. 3; acquired at this sale

    RF 44343

  • Prints and Drawings

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

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Additional information about the work

17th-century (?) inscription lower right: de Mano de Beruge