mid to late 17th century
verso: Seated Man in profile resting on helmet
traces of black chalk, brush &brown ink & wash. Some red chalk unrelated to subject. the verso in red & black chalk. 61/2 x 5". 165 x 126mm.
I am grateful to Xavier Bray of the National Gallery, London, for proposing Seville as the regional origin of the style displayed in this exuberant, Baroque drawing. Dr. Bray also suggests the drawing may be a study for one of a series of archangels, as such series were quite common in Seville. He suggests that the artist may be in the circle of Murillo, second 1/2 of the 17th c.1 Soni Veliz has independently also suggested the drawing is Sevillian, seeing something of Herrera the Younger in the technique of the repetitive curling calligraphy.2 Herrara the Younger also worked during the 2nd 1/2 of the 17th c.
The verso, executed in an entirely different medium and technique, is more difficult to discern. Perhaps it is by a different hand and of an earlier date, though even this is not certain. As distinct from the recto, it appears to have been drawn from life.
The two leading artists in Seville in the first part of the 17th century were Herrera the Elder and Pacheco. There are today a fairly large number of surviving drawings by each of them. Pacheco drew primarily with brush & brown ink, using the light of the white paper. He was enamored of the Italian renaissance artists, particularly Raphael and Polidoro. Herrera was an engraver, preferring the hard and decisive line of the reed pen. Both of these influential artists had died by the middle of the 17th century, and it was Murillo and Valdes Leal who emerged, bringing a change of approach to graphic work. By 1660 a drawing academy was founded in Seville by a group of prominent Sevillian painters and under the leadership of by Murillo and Herrera the Younger. The major activity was life drawing. In the early 1660's there are documents of payments made by the treasurer, Valdes Leal, to the model, Pedro. Whether or not the verso of the present sheet was made at the academy is not known. It may have been drawn in the artist's studio using an assistant or a passerby as the model. That the seated figure leans on a helmet suggests he is a tired warrior.
The present drawing is Italianate. Herrera the Younger had travelled to Rome sometime between 1648 and 1654. There he may have learned his high baroque style which displayed great movement. His brushwork and penwork were especially lively and animated. Murillo never travelled further than Madrid but there, through the kindness of Velazquez, he studied the Italian paintings in the Royal Galleries. Stylistically, though, to me his drawings weren't as energetic as the present drawing, nor was his use of pen comparable. Herrera seems more likely to be the author or primary influence of this double-sided sheet.
In an e-mail dated December 2007.
In person, in NY, in November of 2007.