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Work Woman Reclining on Her Side: Psyche Asleep

Department of Prints and Drawings: 17th century

Femme allongée de face : Psyché endormie

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Mancini Federica

Psyche Asleep is one of the most beautiful drawings of Cigoli's later career. Its later production is characterized by the concerted synthesis between Florentine naturalism and Roman classicism. During this period, Cigoli methodically employed colored materials on dark grounds adjusted to enhance the colors, the effects of which are here masterfully on display.

The Villa Borghese

This drawing is a preparatory study for a fresco of a lunette in the Loggetta (little lodge), a building that was part of the larger plan for the Villa Borghese in Rome. Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V, ordered an architectural complex to be built on the Quirinal in 1603. Its decoration was entrusted to Guido Reni, Giovanni Baglione, Domenico Passignano, and Cigoli, thanks to the intervention of the Florentine Antonio Ricci. Work was nevertheless abandoned in 1616 when the cardinal decided to devote himself entirely to the construction of the Villa Borghese. At that point, the decoration of the Loggetta involved the frescoes on the arch and three of the four lunettes completed between 1611 and 1613. The lodge was demolished in 1857 in order to widen the Via Nazionale. The cycle of the Story of Psyche was removed and transferred to the Vatican Pinacotheca in 1875 and then to the Braschi palace in 1952, where it is found today. The Louvre piece refers to the first lunette, correctly attributed to Cigoli by J. Bean in 1958. It is one of five existing drawings that reveals the artist's development of the last pagan cycle in his work. The artist's identity was unknown until the nineteenth century, when the Story of Psyche was attributed to Annibale and then to Ludovico Carrache, after the discovery of the initials "LC." It was not until the nineteenth century that the cycle was finally attributed to Cardi.

A loan from Michelangelo

Psyche, depicted in fine, dark lines, reclines on a cushion. Her face is turned toward the right. The sheet that covers her is lifted. No doubt a gust of wind has uncovered her breast and right leg. The figure's realism, of which the foreshortening is enhanced by the perspective of the bended leg, emerges from the rendering of the body and the luminous effects of the colors. This figure of a woman partially reclining is a preparatory study for Psyche Asleep in a Garden. The breath of Zephyr, to the right in the lunette, composes the scene. The scene is inspired by the Golden Ass (from The Metamorphosis) of Apuleius (book XI). It is known from his correspondence with Michelangelo that Cigoli was familiar with this work, and he mentions returning the book which the former had loaned him.

Proof and counterproof

Among the five preparatory studies for the Loggetta cycle, Psyche Asleep is the best example of the artist's talent for decoration. This figure, characterized by energetic traits and agitated contours, is illustrated in a new format: the lightness of the notation and the amplitude of the form create a dream-like figure. The Florentine heritage made way for the school of Carrache, which Cigoli knew in Rome. The "peinture claire" of the Farnese palace is evoked in the color effects of the Louvre piece, for which a counterproof exists in the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence.


ean Jacob, notice 30, in Dessins florentins de la collection de Filippo Baldinucci, 1625-1696 : XIXe exposition du Cabinet des Dessins, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1959.
Viatte Françoise, notice 168, in Musée du Louvre, Inventaire général des dessins italiens (t. III : Dessins toscans XVe-XVIIIe siècles, t. I : 1560-1620), Paris, 1988, p. 105.
Chappell M. L., Disegni di Ludovico Cigoli, Gabinetto di Disegni e stampe degli Uffizi, Firenze, 1992, pp. XII, XV, 190-192.
Amours, Paris, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Arles, Actes sud, 1997, notice p. 196.

Technical description

  • Ludovico Cardi, called Il Cigoli (Cigoli, 1559-Rome, 1613)

    Woman Reclining on Her Side: Psyche Asleep


  • Black chalk, red chalk, heightened with white on gray-green paper

    H. 30 cm.; W. 42.5 cm

  • Filippo Baldinucci collection (vol. IV, p. 65), Francesco Saverio Baldinucci collection, his son, Pandolfo Pandolfini collection, Camillo Pandolfini collection, Roberto Pandolfini collection, Angiolo Pandolfini collection, Anna Eleonora Pandolfini collection (wife of Filippo Strozzi), Eleonora Teresa Pandolfini collection, purchased by intervention of Filippo Strozzi, on account of the painter François-Xavier Fabre, 1806

    INV 914

  • 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

Annotation in pen and brown ink, below right: Cigoli