Florence, Uffizi Galleries, Department of Prints and Drawings
During the early years of his training in Bologna, draughtsman and engraver Marcantonio Raimondi adopted and experimented with influences from the thriving art scene in northern Italy (Ferrara and Padova) in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. This drawing can be ascribed to the earliest period of Marcantonio's career, as it bears a striking resemblance to Mantegna's method of hatching with a pen, adapted in rather a similar way to the niello prints that Francesco Francia favoured.
In this work, probably related to Amico Aspertini's trip to Rome around 1496, we can identify signs of the artist's gradual shift away from the artistic style of Ferrara, Bologna and Padua so characteristic of his earlier experiments. Here we note the highly personal influence of Filippino Lippi's drawing. The subject is not drawn from a specific classical model; it represents an antique design.
This drawing, like other artistic experiments from Lorenzo Costa's Bolognese period, is clear evidence of the links between Bologna and Central Italy at the turn of the 16th century. Here, we see evidence of the artist's new take on Perugino's compositional models, as well as the incisive pen strokes of Florentine Filippino Lippi.
This work, a preparatory study for "The Coronation of the Virgin and Saints" which dates back to 1501 (Bologna, church of San Giovanni in Monte), establishes the essential elements of the composition. It is a quick sketch, but contains many hints of lighting effects, and has the softness of a painting due to the use of diluted ink.
This drawing is associated with the "Madonna and Child in Glory with Saints" altarpiece painted by Francesco Francia in 1502 for the church of Santa Cecilia dei Minori Osservanti just outside Modena. The painting was destroyed in 1945 by a fire at the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin, where it was on display at the time. Francia, who also worked as a goldsmith in Bologna, demonstrates his ability to blend different styles and currents used in Italian art in the late 15th century; the influence of Perugino above all, but also Venetian painting such as the work of Bellini.
The unusual iconography in this drawing is taken from "De Aquaeductu Urbis Romae", a work on the problems of Rome's water supply written by Julius Sextus Frontinus, a Roman writer and politician who lived in the 1st century AD. Interpreting the work of Frontinus, Jacopo depicts both the goddess Collatina, who represents the small hill where the water source for the Aqua Virgo aqueduct rises, and the virgin who points out the source of the Aniene River (depicted allegorically at the bottom) to Agrippa's soldiers.
The drawing is a significant example of the open-minded approach to iconography linked to the predilection for mythological allegoresis found not only in the art of Jacopo Francia, but also in the work of his father Francesco. The backdrop for this was the cultured city of Bologna, where the "Studium" constantly produced new editions and commentaries on ancient texts.
The inscription on this work, which is ancient but nonetheless not genuine, led to erroneously identify the figure portrayed as Alessandro Achillini (Bologna, 1461 or 1463-1512). The person depicted is actually Alessandro's brother Giovanni, known as Filoteo (Bologna, 1466-1538), a well-read scholar of classics and literature who studied the Etruscan language and was familiar with Greek and Latin. Like Alessandro, there are documented contacts between him and Amico Aspertini.
Towards the end of the first decade of the 16th century and during the second decade, Aspertini's independence from accepted standards of beauty and his interest in psychological introspection gave rise to a small number of portraits that were nonetheless incisive. The execution of this drawing dates it to the start of his mature period, probably the end of the 1500s. The subtly naturalistic style is combined with a certain idealisation of the subject, while the muted expressive tension is intended to depict the poet's moral gravitas and inner refinement.
In this work, Francia abandons the pen method - his preferred technique - and instead uses black and white chalk. These materials allowed him to obtain much softer and deeper contrasts between light and shade, drastically altering the piece's visual effect. The artist blends the black chalk with gentle gradation, while the reflections of light, particularly on the cheekbones, are rendered with white chalk which is also skilfully blended. This technical experimentation must have been driven by the latest examples of work influenced by Leonardo Da Vinci. Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio was the flag-bearer, having produced a painting for the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Bologna in 1500.
This drawing is constructed with outlines drawn with quick strokes of the pen that do not fully complete the forms, and shading created with a rather thinned-out parallel hatching technique. The general arrangement and the speed with which the work was completed indicate that it was intended as a sketch of the overall composition, selectively focusing on proportion and the effects of lights.
This work, which can be dated to around the end of the 1510s, reveals the experimentalism and the layers of culture which helped to drive Aspertini's drawing work. The accentuated musculature of the figures and their tendency towards gigantism derive from the work of Michelangelo, while the pen strokes themselves show the influence of Venetian art, particularly the early drawings of Domenico Campagnola, which were in turn associated with the pen drawings of Titian.
This drawing, which depicts a frieze with fantastical and anthropomorphised creatures, most likely dates from Amico's mature period, and specifically from a period of activity in the latter half of the 1530s. It is clear that Aspertini had come into contact with the work of Giulio Romano in Mantua: the massive bodies which were a legacy of Michangelo are reworked here in the grotesque gigantism of forms that Giulio himself used.
The arrangement of the scene in this work, which can be dated to the end of the 1510s, derive from an Italian iconography first used in a fresco by Gherardo Starnina in the Castellani Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Croce (Florence). On the other hand, the poses of the saint's demonic assailants and their displacement throughout the space invite specific comparisons with German art, particularly the engravings of Martin Schongauer. Starting from these points, Amico manages to produce a quite original creation, looking to Michelangelo and ancient art for inspiration with regard to the anatomy of musculature.
This work immortalises the death of Eurydice, who was bitten by a viper as she fled from the shepard Aristaeus. He eagerly and incessantly pursed the beautiful nymph, who was betrothed to Orpheus, and thereby unwittingly caused the tragedy.
From the end of the 1530s onwards, Aspertini began striving to emphasise the effects of colour and light in his works (both drawings and paintings), going as far as to flake and almost corrode the figures.
Besides the dramatic nature of the subject being depicted and the striking dynamism of the composition, additional emotional intensity is provided by a powerful light source positioned above the scene. The artist employs a line in black chalk applied in a rapid, flowing manner, and a vast background in diluted ink. The contrast with the light surface of the paper gives the work a vibrant luminosity.
The subjects are taken from a sarcophagus depicting the "Battle of the Centaurs" which must have been in Rome at the turn of the 16th century. The sarcophagus is now lost, but drawings of it remain, along with a cast kept at Palazzo Peruzzi in Florence.
The drawing represents only the central section of the front panel of the sarcophagus, and the original design is interpreted rather freely.
For example, the centaur bending forwards is a variation added by Aspertini. The Bolognese artist established a profound dialogue with classical art. As time went on this increasingly gave him room to reinterpret the originals (within certain limits), as this deviation from the source demonstrates.
Amico frequently returned to the same motif taken from ancient art, reworking it in various studies depending on his needs and the style he wished to use.
It is plausible to conclude that this composition featuring marine deities is linked to a larger mural based on ancient art, given its unusual iconography and striking painting-like qualities.
With its violent and dramatic tone, the work represents the personal interpretation of an iconographic theme derived from antiquity. The artist subjects the model to an original reworking which takes it beyond a simple classical reproduction.
The subject of this drawing derives from the front of a sarcophagus depicting "The Indian Triumph of Bacchus" which is now mounted in a facade in the gardens of Villa Medici in Rome. This may have been studied by Biagio Pupini during his trip to Rome at the beginning of the 1520s. Pupini tackles the classical world through direct contact with ancient artworks, or through copies by contemporary artists, notably Amico Aspertini. Not constrained by any philological intention, he reworks the models in a very personal way.
The painting-like qualities of the scene are derived from facades painted by Polidoro da Caravaggio, closely linked to an evocative interpretation of ancient art. The contrast between the dark background of the paper and the figures, highlighted by striking white brush strokes, is combined with a dense and dynamic depiction of the procession.
This drawing, which dates from the first half of the 1520s, bears the hallmarks of Raphael. In particular, it returns to the iconographic motif from "The Adoration of the Shepherds" created by Raphael in the latter half of the 1510s, which was used in several versions created by his pupils. The scene here is more symmetrical and simpler than the prototype; Bagnacavallo adapts Raphael's model in a softer, more faithful style.
This study, which dates from around 1530, is a preparatory sketch for the painting "Virgin with Child in Glory Crowned by Two Angels with Saints Monica and Francis and Two Clients", painted by Bagnacavallo for the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Bologna.
The brush strokes in white lead create effects of light and shade, mainly apparent in the figure of the Virgin and the depiction of the countryside. This technique shows the influence of Girolamo Da Carpi's style on Bagnacavallo, and more generally the artist's use of expressive methods taken from the art of Ferrara.
Exhibition curated by Marzia Faietti with Roberta Aliventi, Laura Da Rin Bettina, Michele Grasso, Giorgio Marini, Raimondo Sassi.
Laura Da Rin Bettina
An introduction to the exhibition and profiles of each individual work are available on the Euploos website