Verona ca. 1589 — 1654 Rome

Study of a Young Man's Head, Looking Down

red, orange and black chalk on blue paper. 103/8 x 81/2" (265 x 215mm).

private collection, The Netherlands;
German art market.

to be published in Verona Illustrata, by the Museo Castelvecchio, hopefully in late 2020 in an article by Andrea Piai.

We know of several detailed chalk studies of heads by Fra Semplice made in preparation for figures in his paintings. Our drawing, in red, orange and black chalk on bluish paper, is related to the head of a young servant in the brilliant blue shirt1 at the center of the painting Parable of the Unworthy Guest (La Cacciata dell'Invitato Indegno), dated 1622.2 Although shown from a slightly different angle, the man's facial features, and especially his distinctively long nose, suggest that our drawing is a preparatory study made from life, most likely a fellow capuchin monk, for this figure in that painting. Furthermore, we recently received word from Andrea Piai whose article regarding 17th c. draughtsmen in Venice shall soon be published.3 He links this head study to an altarpiece painted in 1621 for the church of Fontevivo near Parma, an Annunciation, destroyed by fire in 1975. Dr. Piai believes our drawn head resembles that of the annunciating angel, and reused later for the figure in the Parable.4

Fra Semplice's painted oeuvre has long been well established; but he was not identified as a draughtsman until 1992, when David Lachenmann was able to connect two chalk drawings to specific figures in two of the Frate's best known paintings.5 On that basis numerous other drawings, which had often been erroneously attributed to the Bolognese painter, Giacomo Cavedone (who also made numerous black and white chalk studies, though not used coloured chalks), were subsequently added to Fra Semplice's drawings oeuvre. Most recently, Roberto Contini published a significant group of eight coloured chalk studies of fellow Capuchin monks, conserved at the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. Some of these had been traditionally catalogued as by Barocci, a slightly earlier master of the coloured chalk technique whose work Fra Semplice may have studied in Rome.6 As is the case with Barocci, many of the Frate's chalk drawings show either accurately executed chalk studies of heads (often portraits of fellow friars, their names inscribed at the bottom of the sheet) or figure studies (usually life studies of friars as well, posing for him).

Fra Semplice is especially interesting as a draftsman because of his diverse influenes, first as a native Veronese artist, versed in the style and techniques of the Venetian mainland, and then in imbibing the manner of the Florentines as well as various artists working in Rome.


after discussion with Dr. Paia as to which of several males standing behind the table is the closest, I defer to him.


This painting was formerly in the Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh; see L. Manzatto, Fra Semplice da Verona pittore del Seicento, Padua, 1973, pp. 44-45, fig. 5.


see litt. above.


in an email dated April 2th, 2020.


D. Lachenmann, Two Preparatory Drawings by Fra Semplice da Verona, in Master Drawings, XXX, 1992, no. 2, pp. 210-15.


R. Contini, Berlino per Fra Semplice, in Arte veneta, 63, 2006 (2007), pp. 208-16.