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Drawing, Drapery Study for the Angel of the Annunciation

This is a Drawing. It was attributed to Battista Franco. It is dated ca. 1553 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is red chalk on dark cream laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

This drawing is attributed to Battista Franco, who was a gifted draftsman, engraver, and painter. He was born in Venice and studied in Rome early in his career. Franco’s primary influence was Michelangelo and he is thought to be the first to copy the frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Franco’s interest extended to classical antiquity and he endeavored to record all of the classical sculptures held in private collections in Rome. His extraordinary draftsmanship earned him commissions with Raffaello da Montelupo on the Ponte Sant’Angelo project, grisaille scenes from Roman history at the Porta San Sebastiano, and he worked with Giorgio Vasari on the decoration of the Palazzo Medici in June 1536. (In fact, much of the primary information on Franco comes from Vasari, who dedicated a chapter to him in the Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects that details his influences and major projects in Rome and in Venice.) Franco was appointed personal painter to Cosimo de’ Medici in 1537 and, between 1545 and 1546, he executed the vault of the choir of the Urbino Cathedral. In addition to numerous fresco commissions, Franco designed works on a smaller scale, notably those for maiolica produced at Casteldurante. As an engraver, Franco is known for numerous plates of allegorical and mythological figures; religious scenes from the life of Christ and that of the Virgin; subjects drawn from antique cameos, saints, and angels; and various scenes depicting Roman antiquity and history. In these works, the influence of Michelangelo and other luminaries of early 15th-century Italian art is evident (a tendency that Vasari criticized).
Franco, like many Italian artists of the time, incorporated classical figures into his compositions. This drawing, ostensibly a study for an angel of the Annunciation due to the suggestion of a lily stem in the figure’s right hand, is drawn from the antique. Executed in red chalk, this drawing stands out as unusual in the oeuvre of an artist who usually worked in pen and black or brown ink. The date (ca. 1553) suggests that it could be related to the fresco cycle of scenes of the Life of the Virgin in the Santa Maria sopra Minerva from 1550. Although there are many engraved figures based on classical figures in Franco’s oeuvre, none relate directly to this figure. The attention to the drapery suggests that Franco may have copied an existing sculpture for source material.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled A study by Battista Franco.

This object was bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle. It is credited Bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle.

Its dimensions are

27.3 x 12.3 cm (10 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.)

It is signed

Signed in black ink, lower right: dorosi [?] [illegible]

Cite this object as

Drawing, Drapery Study for the Angel of the Annunciation; Attributed to Battista Franco (Italian, ca. 1510–1561); Italy; red chalk on dark cream laid paper; 27.3 x 12.3 cm (10 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.); Bequest of Joseph F. McCrindle; 2009-4-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Drapery Study for the Angel of the Annunciation |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=17 October 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>