11 5/8” x 16 9/16” (295 x 420 mm) - framed 21 3/8” x 26 1/16” (54.3 x 66.2 cm)
18th century Italian neoclassical frame in carved and gilded wood
Watermarks: initials FB in a medallion and inscription "CANONICA”
We would like to thank Marco Riccòmini for his help in preparing this note and in particular for pointing out the existence of the drawing in the Musei Civici of Reggio Emilia.
The work of the Gandolfi family (whose main representatives are Ubaldo, his brother Gaetano, and his nephew Mauro) is part of the artistic tradition of the great Bolognese painting marked by the work of the Carracci. This man study is typical of Ubaldo Gandolfi's activity around 1770. Although these studies were generally produced independently of any specific pictorial project, there are some interesting similarities with the character of Endymion in the painting representing Selene and Endymion. The virtuoso use of red chalk heightened with white chalk brings much life to the powerful body of the model, defined by firm contours and sculpted by the light.
1. Ubaldo Gandolfi, an artist in the Bolognese tradition
Ubaldo Gandolfi was the eldest of a prolific family of artists that also included his brother Gaetano (1734 - 1802), his sons Giovanni Battista and Ubaldo Lorenzo and his nephews Mauro (1764 - 1834), Democrito (Mauro's son, who was to be a pupil of the sculptor Antonio Canova) and his niece Clementine. At the age of 17 he enrolled at the Clementine Academy where he was trained mainly by the painter Ercole Lelli. This Academy, founded in 1710 in Bologna, soon became the most important centre of learning for nude drawing in northern Italy, and also trained many Venetian artists, such as Sebastiano Ricci and G.B. Piazzetta.
Ubaldo became a member of the Academy in 1760, and for several years (in 1761, 1766, 1769, 1771, 1777, 1778 and 1779) was in charge of teaching nude drawing ("direttore di Figura"). His academic drawings are perhaps the best part of his work, whereas his paintings seem more conventional today. They are part of the Bolognese tradition of drawing the human figure from live models, the supreme form of a non-idealised observation of nature.
Ubaldo Gandolfi died in 1781 in Ravenna of a fever contracted while painting the Byzantine vault of the church of San Vitale.
2. Description of the artwork
This sensual sanguine, heightened with white chalk, presents a young man lying on two bags that evoke rocks. His right leg, resting on the ground, is stepping over a first oblong bag on which his left leg is also resting, bent backwards. His right arm is also bent over his head, with his elbow is resting on a second bag placed above the first. The model extends his left arm to the ground, where his outstretched hand anchors him in an unstable balance. His eyes are closed, suggesting that he is in a deep sleep, despite the discomfort of his position.
This original pose highlights the model's powerful musculature, emphasised by the use of white chalk.
3. Related artwork
The Musei Civici of Reggio Emilia hold a study sheet attributed to Ubaldo Gandolfi . Also executed in red chalk, it is very similar in conception but has a less lively character, which leads us to believe that it was probably executed by one of his pupils after the work we are presenting. It was common practice during the courses given by Ubaldo Gandolfi at the Clementine Academy to also copy works by the master, in addition to the exercises on live models.
4. An inspiration for Endymion?
The live model used for our drawing is a young man who probably posed for other drawings by Ubaldo Gandolfi , but also for his brother Gaetano. He also appears in two paintings executed around 1770, both depicting Endymion accompanied by Diana/ Selene. One is kept in the Musei Civici d’Arte Antica of Bologna and the other in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The two paintings represent two versions of the myth of Endymion. Endymion was a simple shepherd who became the lover of Diana/ Selene, the goddess of the moon, who discovered him asleep in the nude. This myth was frequently depicted on ancient sarcophagi from the Christian era to evoke the hope of an afterlife.
While the Bolognese version allows us to recognise the same model, the painting in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (last photo in the gallery) has a much stronger connection with our drawing. On carved stones whose arrangement evokes our sanguine, Endymion is discovered asleep by Selene, who appears to us in the light of a crescent moon. The painting corrects the somewhat artificial character of the model's unstable position in our drawing: Endymion's right leg (very similar to our drawing) is now lying on the stone, his head (whose eyes are also closed) rests in the hollow of the right elbow, freeing the powerful musculature of his shoulder and of his left arm (also very similar to our drawing), whose hand is now resting flat on his right knee.
It is also interesting to note that the lighting of the painting (by the moon at the top left) echoes that of our drawing in which the white chalk renders the softness of the moonlight in a very delicate way.
This sanguine is presented in an 18th century Italian neo-classical gilded wood frame.
Main bibliographical references :
(collective) - I Gandolfi - Ubaldo, Gaetano, Mauro - disegni et dipinti - Neri Pozza Editore 1987
Marco Riccòmini - I Gandolfi - Disegni della raccolta Certani alla Fondazione Giorgio Cini - Marsilio 2018
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