Venetian or Bolognese

16th Century

Diana w Staff
verso: Study after an Ancient Relief of Trajans Campaign against the Dacians

pen & brown ink. in red chalk adds a sword in Diana's left hand.
verso: pen & ink and brush & wash. 111/2 x 8" (29.2 x 22.1cm)
inscribed by a later hand(?) l/c: Surherme diocli....

This intriguing page of two drawings in different styles and techniques is non the less probably executed by a single artist.

The verso drawing concerns Trajan's victory over the Dacians. The original long relief was likely taken from the Forum of Trajan, executed in Diocletian times. It had broken into 4 parts which were then installed into Constantine's Arch. The inscription Liberetori Urbis was added above the relief to steal the glory for Constantine! These reliefs were always visible throughout the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance. Among the artists of the time who copied them were Giuliano da Sangallo, Ripanda, Aspertini, Peruzzi, Raimondi, Cesare da Sesto, "Polidoro, and Heemskerck.1 I believe the present artist produced his version just after the period of Peruzzi and Aspertini.

The recto drawing is possibly after a statue of Diana, and may come from the Baths of Diocletian, as kindly suggested by Peter Windows. Windows reads the inscription as Sutherme diocletianj. And he postulates that "Perhaps su before therme indicates on or above.... maybe a statue or relief which was part of the decoration of the baths. My first thought was Diana, but there’s no bow. I wonder if it could be Hera. The dagger could be a playful, later addition."2 The idea that the dagger is a later addition is almost certain. I wonder that this figure, so at odds with the Roman ideal, is instead a derivative conception of the artist. The female figure type is like those Venetic artists such as Pordenone, Amalteo, Giorgione....and much like Aspertini who of course was an avid recorder of ancient statues and reliefs. The technique in pen & ink of parallel somewhat curving lines is reminiscent of early Cinquecento artists of the Veneto such as Domenico Campagnola, and the facial type also recalls Giorgione's ladies.

Dr. Windows kindly struggled with the inscription after “LIBERATORI URBIS”, begining with the word Nardio. The second word may be something like detrasi. The name didn’t take him anywhere unfortunately.


Phyllis Pray Bober and Ruth Rubenstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture, a handbook of sources, London , 1986, pp.189-192. illustrations 158iii-158a-i, b &c.


In an email of late 2014. Many thanks to Peter Windows.