Bologna 1668 1711 Pistoia

Removal of the Dead during a Plague

black chalk. 101/8 x 17". (260 x 435mm). watermark: series of crescent moons. inscribed on the verso barely legibly Viani della Chiesa di Servi in Imola.

private collection, Madrid.

In 1697 Viani was commissioned by the Frati Serviti to paint a large painting with some fifty figures that would show the Virgin and Saints protecting Imola from a plague.1 Unfortunately, an inventory of 1856 states that the painting was in a deplorable state; and by 1897 it was considered lost2 with no trace of it today. Both the subject of this drawing and the inscription on the verso tell us that this is a preparatory drawing for that painting.

Drawings by Domenico Maria Viani are scarce. In the fototeca at the Kunsthistorisches Library in Florence one can see that there are several at the Prado - a nude, a study sheet of heads and a small compositional studies. Elsewhere there are a few small compositional studies as well as a few larger more developed sheets in pen and brush with wash. The Pinacoteca in Bologna boasts a very strong male nude in black chalk to which is devoted 5 pages in one of their publications.3There are no comparable large chalk drawings, nothing like the present example so reminiscent of Ludovico Carracci and there is nothing as beautifully rendered. His paintings, which reveal the influence of Venetian color as well as his native Carracesque idiom, are not found in great number either. The few that are known are at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Kusthistorisches in Vienna, the church of Santo Spirito in Bergamo, the National Gallery of Sao Paolo, and in Dresden.

Described by Giovanni Nicolo Villa in his 1794 ms entitled Pitture della Citta d'Imola: "La Beata Virgine supplicata dai Santi nostri Protettori per la liberazione della pestilenza e sotto gli affetti e le naturali azioni de' poveri oppressi da tal flagello."


A. Meluzzi, Santa Maria dei Servi in Imola, 1959, p.18.


Marzia Faietti and Alessandro Zacchi, Figure, Disegni dal Cinquecento all"Ottocento nella Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Milan, 1998, pp. 252 - 255 and p..221 a full page color plate.