Museo del Prado, Madrid

Museo Nacional del Prado | Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23
28014 Madrid

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artists & participants

press release

The sixteenth century was a key period for the development of drawing in Europe. The wide range of drawing types, the variety of regional and individual styles and the importance which artists gave to this medium meant that this was a particularly important time for the development of the technique. Painters learned that drawing was not just a practical exercise for the purposes of study, but that it allowed them great freedom to express their imagination and individual artistic personality.

The present exhibition features a selection of seventy drawings, all of which entered the Museum as part of the bequest of the collector, Pedro Fernández Durán (1846-1930). Together they offer an overview of the variety and techniques of Italian sixteenth-century drawings. The bequest, which came to the Museum in 1931, is the core of the Prado's collection of drawings, along with those originally in the Spanish royal collection.

The exhibition aims to explain the intrinsic importance of the medium of drawing, as well as the way in which it was used by artists. Along with highly finished works which were used as modelli for paintings, it also includes rapid compositional sketches, primi pensieri ('first thoughts'), and figure studies of a greater or lesser degree of finish. The organization of the exhibition reflects this variety of types and artists, with the drawings grouped by geographical regions, allowing for an appreciation of the different characteristics of each.

The exhibition opens with Florentine drawings, including the magnificent Study for a Female Figure with Drapery by Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530) and Saint Luke painting the Virgin by GiorgioVasari (1511-1575). It continues with a group of artists who were mainly active in Rome, led by Federico Zuccaro (1540/1-1609) with his Dignitary kneeling before the Pope to receive a Chain and other Honours. Next come Genoese drawings, notably the work of Luca Cambiaso (1527-1585), in particular his Hercules shooting with a Bow, as well as Giovanni Battista Castello (1509-1569) known as "Il Bergamasco", represented by the brilliant, rapidly-executed Mars and Apollo. Alongside these sheets is one of the key works in the exhibition, the Project for a Mural Decoration by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609).

The exhibition then focuses on the figure of Michelangelo. Two figure studies by the artist for the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel have recently been identified in the Prado's collection. Displayed nearby are works by the followers of Raphael: Giulio Romano, Perino del Vaga and Polidoro da Caravaggio. These drawings offer the opportunity to fully appreciate the mastery of drawing, with their perfect grasp of anatomy, movement and the effects of light on form.

There follows a further selection of Genoese drawings, together with a group of works by artists from northern Italy. Among these, the Venetian school was par-ticularly important, characterised by its luminosity and compositional inventiveness. The exhibition is accompanied by the publication of Volume V of the catalogue of drawings in the Museo del Prado. It covers the sixteenth-century Italian drawings in the collection and is written by the Renaissance and Baroque drawings specialist, Nicholas Turner.


only in german

Un siglo de dibujos italianos en el Prado

Werke von Andrea del Sarto, Giorgio Vasari, Federico Zuccaro, Luca Cambiaso, Giovanni Battista Castello, Annibale Carracci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Giulio Romano, Perino del Vaga ...