red chalk. 5 7/8 x 4 1/4" (15 x 10.8mm).
This absolutely charming drawing shows a young student of the Carracci workshop drawing from sheets designed for teaching by Agostino which were later crafted into a modelbook. The student is focusing on facial features, copying different views of eyes, noses, ears, while he holds a quill pen or chalk holder in his hand. This moment he looks up at the artist drawing him, perhaps himself, and us the viewer.
The how-to book, The Drawing Book, is well-known to Bolognese art historians. Though developed by Agostino, the engravings after his drawings were made by Francesco Brizio and Luca Ciamberlano and published in the next century. In the present sketch, it is not the printed book that is shown but rather its forerunner...the actual drawn pages put together for his students by Agostino. Our drawing was most likely made by a pupil of the Carracci Academy, known as the Accademia degli Incamminati, which flourished between 1582-1592. Relevant, albeit quite different, is a drawing depicting an entire class drawing from the model from around the same time and ostensibly at the same school.1 Drawings like these, from this period, of the art school or workplace, are very rare. Finally, in relation to our drawing, please note a red chalk drawing of another young man at work though this time it is in a butchershop. Here too we find the well described clothing worn by the subject including the ruffled detail and a distinctive hat. This drawing, by Annibale, is a study for a painting and is conserved at Windsor Castle.2
The drawing is in the National Museum in Stockholm and reproduced in a number of books and articles, most recently in Essays in Honour of David McTavish, Rethinking Renaissance Drawings, edited by Una Roman D'Elie, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2015, article 18, p. 262-277, illus. 18.3, p. 271.
Robertson and Whistler, Drawings of the Carracci from British Collections, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1997, cat. #51, pp 96-97, illus.