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Giovanni Battista Vanni

(1599 Florence – 1660 Pistoia)

Study sheet with the head of St. Francis of Assisi and detail studies of an eye and an ear. Red chalk drawing. 19.2 x 13.2 cm. “G. B. Vanni” inscribed in pen and brown ink in the bottom right-hand corner.

This study sheet, which has been executed with great concentration and consummate skill, is a vivid testimony to the advanced level of draughtsmanship to be found in Florence during the early Seicento. The saint’s face and the detail studies of the eye and ear are rendered with incisive clarity, supreme confidence and with almost instinctive precision. The drawing comes from a small sketchbook with forty-one studies in an identical format which is now in the Gabinetto delle Stampe of the Uffizi in Florence (inv. no. 108708-748).

The painter and etcher, Giovanni Battista Vanni, studied under Aurelio Lomi and subsequently worked in the studio run by Jacopo da Empoli. He was made a member of the Accademia delle Arti e del Disegno in Florence in 1618, by which time he was probably already collaborating with Cristofano Allori. Although Florence remained the focal point of his life, as is documented by the many commissions he carried out for local churches, he also spent time in Rome, Parma, Venice, Ferrara and Ravenna. In 1660, Vanni was active in Pistoia, where he executed frescoes in the monastery of Monte Oliveto. It was while he was working on this cycle that he died on 27 July of the same year.

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