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The Flaying of Marsyas. Pen and brownish-black ink, white heightening, on greyish-brown paper. 13.2 x 19,3 cm. Matthias Kunze, „Daniel Seiter – Die Zeichnungen – Neue Funde und Nachträge”, Barockberichte, 22/23, Salzburg 1999, p. 364, fig. 5.
Daniel Seiter is an important representative of the Late Baroque period in Italy. He represents a type of artist who, at the close of the 17th century, demonstrated remarkable virtuosity in bringing together in his person the multifarious achievements of preceding generations of Italian painters. Initially trained in Vienna as an officer and fortifications engineer, his eventful life took him to Venice round about the year 1667, where he took up painting in the studio of Johann Carl Loth. After a short stay in Florence he moved to Rome about 1680, where he swiftly achieved success and esteem for his altar and history paintings in the circle around Carlo Maratta. Admitted to the Accademia di San Luca in 1686, he was appointed court painter in Turin by Victor Amadeus II of Savoy in 1688. His magnificent paintings for the Galleria di Daniele in the Palazzo Reale consisting of a synthesis of Classical and Baroque elements were a superb testimony to the Duke’s ambitious plans.
Our drawing, dashed off with virtuoso aplomb, is connected in stylistic and compositional terms with a so-called “sketched picture” at the Albertina in Vienna (see M. Kunze, Daniel Seiter – Die Zeichnungen, Salzburg 1997, no. 60 with illustrations). This term refers to a group of small-format drawings
in the artist’s oeuvre which combine a spontaneous, deliberately sketch-like style with a finished composition (see M. Kunze, op. cit., Salzburg 1997, p. 46f.). Trained in the art of drawing as practised by Johann Carl Loth, Seiter continued to develop his skill in this field in Rome. He evidently met with sufficient success among enthusiasts and collectors to transform the preparatory studies he drew for his paintings into the aforementioned sketched pictures, thus enabling him to set up his own collectors’ market. This is the only explanation of why his graphical oeuvre contains several similar versions of different compositions.
The present drawing probably dates to between 1685 and 1688 in Rome, when Seiter was at the peak of his fame. The sketch illustrates the vigorous and spontaneous style that is so typical of his penwork, the effect of which is heightened by the lively chiaroscuro. In keeping with the Venetian tradition he often combined white lead heightening with various kinds of coloured paper.
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