PROFILE STUDY OF A YOUNG NOBLEMAN
Pen & ink on laid paper
18.3 x 13.2 cm | 28.5 x 23.5 cm [Framed]
With Jean-Paul Meulemeester, Brussels;
Private Collection, Antwerp
The present work bears many of the hallmarks of the hand of Bartolomeo Passarotti: the heavy crosshatching, applied in sections throughout the face and neck to create depth and shading, shows the strong influence of the 16th century Florentine school, in particular Baccio Bandinelli. Paul Joannides pointed out the strong connection between these two artists, writing, "Whereas Passarotti seems not to have been intimate with Michelangelo or with those who possessed his drawings, he probably had direct access to drawings by Bandinelli: the two artist’s pen drawings have often been confused."
Passarotti himself evidently inspired devotees’ mimicry of his style, with a number of sheets in public collections worldwide that closely follow his distinctive style. One example that is especially close to our sheet include Head of a Boy in Profile (‘School of Bartolomeo Passarotti’, Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 990248, 3rd image), and there is a work in the Witt Library with an erroneous attribution to one of the Carracci brothers wherein the collar is executed in exactly the same idiosyncratic manner (4th image). Comparison of the rendering of the hair in the present study with that in An Angel, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 5th image), shows the subtle difference in quality between the hand of the master and that of the student, with wonderfully naturalistic, random curls in that work and more rigid, formulaic drawing of the hair on our subject. A further profile study, again by the more accomplished hand of Passarotti himself, is with Day & Faber, London (6th image).
Born in Bologna, Passarotti first worked in Rome, between 1550-1555, allying himself with the celebrated architect Jacopo Vignola and later Taddeo Zuccarro. Upon the death of Pope Giulio III, he returned to Bologna, and by 1560 he had established his own workshop there, which dominated much of the city’s artistic life. He seems to have returned to work in Rome at various points during the later 1550s and thereafter. Passarotti specialised in portraiture in the then-popular mannerist style, religious scenes and was also a pioneer in Italian genre painting, executing a number of views of Butcher’s shops, for which is probably best-known today. His foremost pupil was Agostino Carracci, who not only carried on his teacher’s practice of genre painting but was also greatly influenced as a draughtsman by the older artist.
It is possible that our drawing derives from one of Passarotti's many portrait commissions: the distinctive headwear can be found in numerous portraits of men of all ages from throughout the artist's career, with representative examples including Portrait of a Man with a Dog (Capitoline Museums, Rome), Portrait of Lope Varona di Villanahue of Burgos (Private Collection) and Portrait of a Young Nobleman [illustrated above, images 7-9].