Drawings Of Luca Signorelli
( Originally Published 1908 )
THE study of Signorelli's drawings is unsatisfactory, both by reason of their scarcity, and the enormous difference of merit, even among those few which can be considered as genuine. Morelli writes : " His drawings are found in all the most important collections of Europe," l but he mentions only thirteen, and although many certainly in all the galleries bear his name, and the impress of his influence, later study appears to accept only six as by his own hand ; and of these six two are so much inferior to the rest that I cannot bring myself to feel any degree of certainty as to their genuineness.
This difficulty of acceptance arises from a comparison with the very high standard of excellence in the two magnificent studies of the nude in the Louvre collection, which correspond, in breadth of feeling, in grandeur of pose, and in boldness and accuracy of touch, to his best brushwork.
No. 345, formerly in the Baldinucci collection, represents two nude male figures of superb proportions, one standing with his hands on his hips, the other, in the characteristic attitude with widespread, firmly-planted feet, having his hand on the shoulder of the first. It is in black chalk, dashed in swiftly, with bold sweeping strokes, apparently direct from the life. It is one of the finest studies of the nude in existence, both for the splendid anatomy of the figures and the freedom and energy of touch. No. 343, also from the Baldinucci collection, which is here reproduced, is hardly inferior to it in the same qualities of boldness and freedom. It seems to be the study from which Signorelli painted the executioner in grisaille near the " Pieta," in Orvieto, and later the scourging figure of the Morra " Flagellation," although in both there are slight differences of position. The action is exceedingly fine, the poise of the figure on the well-drawn feet being especially good, while all the force of the strong body is thrown into the arms stretched high up over the head.
In Dresden is a sheet of studies, which, while less fine than these two, are yet very characteristic, and undoubtedly genuine. They are also in black chalk, but very much rubbed, and consequently rather in-distinct. They represent four nude figures in different postures, which Morelli considers to be studies for part of the Orvieto frescoes, although I have failed to discover there anything which corresponds to them.
In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, is another black chalk study of two men being chained by devils, which, again, seems as though it must have been intended for some of the figures in the " Damnation," but which I cannot find there. This drawing is also very characteristic, and although falling far below the merit of the Louvre studies, has all Signorelli's qualities of dramatic energy and strength of touch.
The heavy, coarse study for a " Death of Lucretia," also in the Uffizi, I find extremely hard, in comparison with any of the foregoing, to accept as an undoubted work of the master, although I am not prepared to absolutely deny it. There is a want of proportion in the figures, and an indecision in the strokes, hard to reconcile with all we know of his work.
In the collection at Windsor is another chalk drawing—" Hercules overcoming Antæus "—of little merit either of anatomy or of technique, but which may possibly be from his hand. There is something of the in influence of Antonio Pollaiuolo visible in this treatment of his favourite subject, and it is just conceivable that it may be an early study by Signorelli done in his workshop.
The list of all the drawings which are attributed to him in different collections would take too long for the slight purpose it would serve ; but for the benefit of those who desire to compare for themselves those which Morelli and Vischer decide to be genuine, I have added a list of their attributions, transcribed without addition or correction.
DRAWINGS MENTIONED BY MORELLI
DRESDEN (Gallery).—Study of four nude figures.
FLORENCE (Ufizi).—Case 459. [No. 1246.]
LONDON (Brit. Mus.).—Three drawings, in vol. 32.
PARIS (Louvre).—[Nos. 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346.]
WINDSOR (Library). — A drawing, attributed to Masaccio.
Besides these, a design for Marcantonio's engraving of " Mars, Venus, and Cupid " (Bartsch, 345), attributed to Mantegna.
DRAWINGS FROM VISCHER'S LIST OF
BERLIN (Gallery).—Man's head with cap (exposed in frame).
CHATSWORTH.-FOUR Saints (Waagen's attribution).
DRESDEN (Gallery) Case i. 10.—Head of a Woman. (Exposed in room II.).—Battlefield (?) [This so-called Battlefield is the study of four nudes, mentioned among the genuine drawings.—Author's Note.]
FLORENCE (Ufizi).—Figure of Youth. Two Damned bound by Devils. Nude Figure bearing Corpse. Madonna and Child (doubtful). Death of Lucretia (?). Bacchanal.
PARIS (Louvre) 340.-Four nude figures ; black chalk. 341. Two Saints ; coloured chalk. 342. A Saint ; coloured chalk. 343. Nude figure scourging ; black chalk. 344. A Saint ; black chalk. 345. Two nude figures. 346. Pietà. 347. Nude figure bearing corpse ; water-colour (more finished repetition of the Uffizi study).
SIENA (Collection of Mr C. Fairfax Murray).—Seated Saints (study for grisaille Prophets in the nave of the church of Loreto).
WINDSOR (Collection of H.M. the Queen). — Devil seizing man ; black chalk (study for Orvieto frescoes). Male figure in three positions ; Indian ink (attributed to Raffael).