A Mid 17thC Italian Drawing of Christ on the Cross Attributed to Raffaello Vanni (Siena 1590-1657)

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Origin: Italian
Period: Mid 17thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1640-60
Height: 28 inches
Width: 15.5 inches

The black chalk, heightened with white drawing of Christ on the cross, inscribed on the verso 'Vanni' in pen and brown ink, the whole with an applied printed border survives from the middle part of seventeenth century Italy.

The condition of the drawing is poor to fair though this is part expected when dealing with a work that is over three hundred and fifty years old. There is heavy wear, tears, slight losses, crease marks, foxing and staining (as per photographs) and it would benefit from some remedial work to stabilise it though it is not essential. The work would also perhaps benefit from being framed to preserve it in its entirety. To the reverse of the drawing we see the signature of ‘Vanni’ to the top right corner in ink. The elaborate border mount is both attractive and interesting and probably dates to the 17th or 18th century.

Raffaello Vanni was the son of the Sienese painter Francesco Vanni (1563–1610) and the influence of his father’s drawings is very much apparent. According to an early biographer, Raffaello first studied with his father, and was apprenticed in Rome from about 1610 to both Guido Reni and Antono Carracci, the son of Agostino. Raffaello was active in Siena for most of his life, but made regular sojourns to the Papal city, where he was particularly patronised during the papacy of Alexander VII (1655–67). Raffaello’s major achievement is, indeed, the frescoing of the crossing dome and pendentives of the church for which Alexander VII felt particular affection because of family ties, S. Maria del Popolo, executed 1656–58.

Raffaello’s merits were recognised by the Accademia di San Luca in Rome around this period, where he was elected Principe in 1658. In Siena he painted frescoes in the Oratoria di San Bernardio in the Piazza San Francesco; Ventura Salimbeni and Rutilio Manetti also executed commissions for the same project. His rich Baroque colours and his glowing figures, half in sunlight, half in shadow, show the influence of Pietro da Cortona. Gallery and easel pictures by the artist are rare. He was bestowed the honour of a knighthood by the Pope, and is also called Cavaliere Vanni. Raffaello’s brother, Michelangelo Vanni (1583–1671), is known as the inventor of ‘marble mosaic painting’.

Drawings by Raffaello Vanni prove to be scarce with his earliest known compositional sketch dating to 1636, when the artist was already beyond the age of forty. A drawing by Vanni of the Holy Family with St John the Baptist in pen and brown ink and lilac wash is preserved in the Budapest Museum. The image of the crucifixion represents the death and resurrection of Jesus and serves as a reminder of our own sins and our need for redemption.

An old master drawing of good size that would benefit from further research and conservation and one that proves to be a scarce and desirable find.

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