The observer’s gaze is directed over the young painter’s shoulder as he works. He is balancing a sketchbook on his knees, which evidently contains a form that he is transferring with the help of a mahlstick to the vertically-positioned canvas in front of him. It transpires that the drawing is in fact the first conscious illustration in art history of the processes involved in creating an artwork, starting from the model stage, via the preliminary design, and culminating in the act of painting itself. Painting and drawing, he serves as an intermediary between nature and art – and it is precisely this self-aware reflection upon the artist’s own role that provides the principal theme of our sketch. The resulting work provides a very early illustration of the main principles espoused by the Carraccis, who sought both in theory and practice to transcend the artist’s constructed self-identity as a Mannerist ‘virtuoso’, and instead to lay the foundations of a new, more straightforward definition of artistic work and life.