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Study sheet showing St. Jerome, the sacrifice of Isaac, a seated woman, and a tree. Pen and brown ink with red chalk. 26.1 x 19.2 cm. Ca. 1635–1637.
There are a small number of study sheets within the large drawn oeuvre of Simone Cantarini that he executed in a technique combining red chalk with pen and brown ink. The spontaneity of these drawings suggests that they represent the primo pensiero in each case. Typically these sheets show a remarkably free and apparently arbitrary presentation of motifs. Handwritten annotations by the artist make some of these drawings even more appealing. Stylistically and compositionally our sheet compares very well with a drawing in Naples (Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte) with figure studies (recto) and the study for an Annunciation (verso). The same furious linework can be found on another study sheet depicting a Madonna with the Christ Child and St. John, also in Naples, that Maria Di Giampaolo counts among one of the most freely handled creations of Cantarini’s entire drawn oeuvre (see Simone Cantarini detto il Pesarese 1612–1648, published by Andrea Emiliani, Bologna 1997–98, no. II, 6 and II, 28).
The same free spirit dominates our drawing. Cantarini moves the red crayon vigorously over the paper in a manner that suggests an intense search for form and compositional structure. The vivid linework, which at first sight does not seem to follow any intrinsic logic, nonetheless creates a graphic pattern of great beauty. The penwork finally underlines the artist’s solution and defines the contours of the individual figures. The details of the anatomy and the drapery folds are sparsely but effectively rendered with short lines. In order to define shaded areas the artist employs a distinct pattern of dense, diagonally running parallel hatching.
The drawing was probably executed during Cantarini’s first stay in Bologna between 1634–35 and 1637, when the artist, who described himself with a certain understatement as a debil scolaro (a not very talented student, Malvasia 1678), studied in the workshop of Guido Reni where he became the master’s favorite pupil. The pose and the figure of St. Jerome are reminiscent of an iconographic prototype invented by Guido Reni, as perfectly exemplified in his St. Jerome Listening to the Angel (1634–35, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). (See D. Stephen Pepper, Guido Reni. A complete catalogue of his works, Oxford 1984, p. 271, no. 153.)
From the collection of F. C. Th. Baron van Isendorn à Blois (Lugt 2610). An expertise by Prof. Dr. Christel Thiem from May 31, 2001 accompanies this drawing.