Offered by Stéphane Renard Fine Art
Old master paintings and drawings
We thank Carolina Trupiano Kowalczyk for her help in describing this drawing and for confirming the attribution to Francesco Furini; her presentation (in Italian) is available on request.
The sheet bears a watermark in the centre with the Medici coat of arms and the crown of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. A similar watermark can be found on other drawings by Francesco Furini, such as the one inventoried under number 17103 F in the Uffizi.
In this rather bewitching drawing executed in black stone and chalk, Francesco Furini is inspired by a detail of the bas-relief representing the story of Esau and Jacob from Ghiberti's masterpiece, the door of the Florence Baptistery known as the 'Gate of Paradise'. The proximity to other drawings by Furini allows us to authenticate this drawing, which was probably made around 1622-1625, shortly before "Painting and Poetry", one of Furini's first important canvases, in which we find a distant echo of this study.
1. Francesco Furini an artist between Florentine Mannerist tradition and Baroque modernity
Francesco Furini was born in Florence on 10 April 1603. His father Filippo di Nicola was a portrait painter who probably taught him the rudiments of painting before he was trained in the workshops of Cristofano Allori, Domenico Cresti, known as Il Passignano, and Bilivert, where he formed a lasting friendship with Baccio del Bianco.
He went to Rome in November 1619, where he frequented the studio of Bartolomeo Manfredi, from whom he absorbed the stylistic characteristics of Caravaggio. He also made friends with Giovanni da San Giovanni, another Florentine artist visiting Rome. Returning to Florence at the age of nineteen, he frequented the studio of Matteo Rosselli. In 1623-1624 he returned to Rome with Giovanni da San Giovanni to paint together the frescoes in the church of the Santi Quattro Coronati and the Palazzo di Monte Cavallo before settling in Florence.
His painting is characterised by the search for the expression of feeling. Inspired by the purity of Raphael's style and by Leonardo's sfumato, it is modulated according to the linearity of Guido Reni, from whom Furini takes over the use of cold colours, in order to often arouse a feeling of melancholy, a "morbid sensuality".
Furini became a priest in 1633 (without abandoning either secular or religious painting) and died at the age of 46 in Florence, exhausted by a fever he had contracted.
2. Description of the drawing
In this drawing, certainly executed in Florence (before or after his stay in Rome in 1623-24), Furini was inspired by one of the city's most emblematic works: the Gate of Paradise commissioned from Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1425, and more particularly by the group of four women placed at the bottom left of the panel representing the Story of Esau and Jacob (8th picture in the Gallery), in front of the representation of Rebecca lying down (which is furtively evoked in the top left-hand corner of our drawing).
This group of four women bears witness to the anecdotal taste of the Renaissance: dressed in long dresses like women of the time, they probably met by chance in a street while one of them was carrying laundry. With great naturalness and grace, they seem to be carried away in their discussion.
Furini subtly translates the fortuitous nature of this encounter, breathing a lively dynamism into the fabrics that seem to swirl around our four friends. His drawing is light and velvety, defining the bodies without insisting on the shapes, blurring the material to create a chiaroscuro that perfectly renders the movement of the fabrics and the volume of the laundry basket.
3. Related artworks
The highly expressive faces of the women, marked by the painter's characteristic sunken eyes, can be found in other drawings by the artist, such as the full-length nude young woman in the Uffizi (9th picture in the Gallery) or the Penitent Magdalene in the British Museum (10th picture in the Gallery). These two drawings are particularly reminiscent of the young woman on the left, with her half-open mouth, her small eyes, and her dishevelled hair framing the oval of her face.
The virtuoso use of black stone and chalk to define the volume of fabrics and faces can also be seen in the Madonna Supported by Angels in the Albertina (11th picture in the Gallery). Finally, it is tempting to draw a parallel with the painting representing Painting and Poetry (12th picture in the Gallery). This painting has probably been executed in 1626 just after our drawing. In this painting which we find both the expression of movement through the torsion of the bust and the suppleness of the fabrics, and the gentle complicity that unites our group of women.
This drawing is presented in a 17th century Italian frame decorated with laurel leaves surrounded by ribbons.
Main bibliographic elements :
Giuseppe Cantelli - Disegni di Francesco Furini e del suo ambiente - Leo S. Olschki Firenze 1973
(A cura di) Mina Gregori e Rodolfo Maffeis - Un'altra bellezza FRANCESCO FURINI - Mandragora Firenze 2007
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