1528 — Verona — 1588
Life Study of a Black Boy Eating
Black & white chalk on buff paper. 61/8 x 71/8" (15.5 x 20cm) laid down w strip made-up for extension of right arm, presently matted out.
The present study is one of three life drawings of male Negroes by Veronese, first published together by van Hadeln in 1927.1 The two others are in the Louvre and the Lehman Collection2 of the Metropolitan Museum. The Louvre sheet is a head study for the kneeling figure in the painting Miracle of St. Barnabus, presently in the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.3 All three drawings were executed predominantly in black chalk and on buff paper; all are life studies of male heads (ours is more bust-like, with arms) in profile.
Though the Tietzes doubted these three studies, Bean and Stampfle disagreed.4 They concurred instead with Borenius, von Hadeln, Osmond and Fiocco, all of whom unanimously accepted the Lehman head (not all published the present drawing but those who did, did so affirmatively). They suggested that the Lehman drawing was a study for a Balthasar in an Adoration of the Magi, an idea later confirmed by Cocke who relates it to Veronese's Adoration of 1573 now in the National Gallery, London.5 So two of the three studies of Blacks have been connected to Veronese's paintings. Here it will be suggested that the third, the present drawing , is likely preparatory for the Black boy at the railing in front of the table, on the left, in reverse, in a painting of the Last Supper designed by Paolo and executed by his workshop, in the church of San Giuliano in Venice. In cataloging a sheet with a small compositional sketch for this painting,6 Cocke suggested that this Last Supper may have been executed by Benedetto in the 1580's.7
When Cocke published the present drawing in his catalogue raisonne, he classified it as "attributed to" because he had not seen the original, knowing it only from a photograph. However, recently he has studied the original and finds it to be "absolutely by the same hand - Veronese's - as the Lehman sheet."8 He further states that in handling, our drawing is comparable to the chalk studies of Liberality, Moderation and Industry, three separate studies for the Allegories on irregularly shaped canvases which flank the central allegories on the ceiling of the Sala del Collegio, Palazzo Ducale, Venice.9 These figure studies were executed shortly after the fire of 1574 in the Ducale, and redecoration began immediately. Because of the similarity of the Allegory drawings and the dating of 1573 of the Adoration for which the Lehman drawing was studied, Cocke dated our drawing to the 1570's as well, while acknowledging that the dating of Veronese's drawing is not easy (and before the connection with the painting in San Giuliano which he dated a bit later was made).
Elizabeth McGrath, who wrote an article about the present drawing in 1998, thought that because the subject of the present drawing appears almost verbatim in a painting by Antoine-François Callet executed in the first years of the 1780's, that this drawing is by Callet. What she failed to observe is that this drawing is neither French nor 18th century in any respect; she had not seen the drawing in the original to see that the paper was early Italian paper, bearing a watermark of grapes which in their irregular roundness also suggest an early date.10 She failed to note that Callet spent a number of years working in Italy nor that Callet was known to be influenced in particular by Veronese. She did state that in the same painting, Callet borrowed a figure from Rubens; one would think that McGrath would realize he had done the same with Veronese's Black boy at the table. Instead she erroneously claims that Veronese's Negroes were always servants and never seated at table. In at least two paintings, however, Veronese seats Blacks at tables with Caucasians. Had McGrath looked further, she might also have noted that several other figures painted by Veronese assume the same pose as that of the boy in this drawing, or that a small sketch by Veronese within a larger sheet of studies, depicts a boy in the same pose in reverse. She might have asked how could it be that a Neoclassical artist could/would make a study for his own painting in a style and technique not his own. Further refuting the attribution to Callet, is the technical analysis concerning the drawing. The paper has been studied by the conservation laboratory at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and their findings indicate that the paper is 16th- or 17th-century Italian paper and certainly not late 18th-century French paper. They couldn't really tell if it was 16th or 17th century, but the point was, that if it wasn't 18th century (Callet), then it was 16th century (Veronese). The MFA had suggested that the Fogg, where they have a Beta Ray Plate x-ray machine might tell more about the watermark. But as the MFA conservator did believe that the watermark was on the drawing's paper and not on the backing paper. The watermark appears to be a bunch of grapes and the roundness of the grapes "suggests" an earlier date.
It was von Hadeln who, in being the first to publish this drawing, noted of The Negro Boy Eating Fruit: "an admirable example of Veronese's rare studies from the living model," and well as being the first to connect the three drawings: .."compared with another example of a Negro Head also owned by Mr. Russell and a third drawing in the Louvre." The Lehman drawing shares with our drawing the provenance of A.G.B. Russell and his 1959 London sale. Mr. Russell was an admirable collector of paintings, sculpture and drawings from. His drawings collection was formed before 1930.11
See Litt., von Hadeln.
op.cit. Cocke, pp.164-165, fig. 68, catalogued as ex-Lehman but in fact still in the Lehman Collection, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
See Litt., Cocke, p. 137, fig. 24.
to be unearthed.
op.cit., Cocke, p.165.
Cocke, op.cit. pp.258-259, pl. 100.
Cocke, op.cit. p.259.
seen in Britain in late May of 2007 and quoted in an e-mail of June 6th, 2007.
op.cit., Cocke, pp. 200 - 203, figs. 70, 84, & 85.
As observed by a paper conservator at the Boston Museum of Fine Art in November of 2007.
He often sold his drawings quite successfully at auction.