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Dr. Michael Gaud, Saint Tropez; his sale, Sotheby's Monaco, 20 June 1987, Lot 72, where acquired by Dr. Joseph and Deborah Goldyne; Gift to the Museum, 2020.
Gift of Joseph and Deborah Goldyne
FAMSF- Legion of Honor, 'Judging by Appearance. Master Drawings from the Collection of Joseph and Deborah Goldyne', 2006, no. 16 (entry by Robert Flynn Johnson and Joseph R. Goldyne).
Recently acquired, this powerful study of figures by Giuseppe Porta is preparatory for the lower-left quadrant of the scene with ‘The Reconciliation between Pope Alexander III and Frederick Barbarossa’, frescoed by the artist in June 1562 in the Sala Regia (‘Royal Hall’) at the Vatican.
Attesting to Porta’s distinctive graphic style and diverse cultural influences, this drawing is a masterclass in the combined and contrasted use of black and red chalks. The dynamic standing figure at center, draped and seen from the back, is executed in a polished black chalk technique, reprised at the bottom in brown ink. The background is animated by the ghostly appearance of seven figures, all quickly rendered with red chalk.
Preceding the Sistine Chapel, the Sala Regia was intended for the reception of diplomatic missions, heads of states and ambassadors, and decorated by a team of artists with frescoes highlighting the political outreach of the Church. The commission of the Sala had been awarded by Pope Pius IV to Francesco Salviati, Porta’s teacher and mentor, in 1560. Salviati worked irregularly and slowly and, by 1562, had only completed a small number of cartoons and preparatory drawings for some scenes. In June 1562, the Venetian Cardinal Marcantonio da Mula succeeded in transferring the commission to Porta, who travelled to Rome from Venice with his assistant, Girolamo Gambarato. The episode assigned to Porta, for which this drawing is preparatory, is the so-called ‘Treaty of Venice’, the peace treaty between Pope Alexander III and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I occurred in 1177. Seen at far left in the fresco, the main figure on the drawing has a key compositional role, leading the eye of the viewer to the historical event taking place at center.
The large Vatican fresco was carefully prepared by Porta with drawings, and at least two compositional studies survive at Hartford, Connecticut (Wadsworth Athenaeum) and Chatsworth (Duke of Devonshire Collection). A third, more detailed figure study for a bearded man seen at far right in the crowd of onlookers, is in the Art Institute of Chicago (gift of Richard Gray).
(Furio Rinaldi, December 2020)