Andrea Boscoli (1560 - 1608)

Saint Sebastian, after Rosso Fiorentino Sold

Black and red chalk.
Numbered 70 5 at the lower right, and 4(?)3 at the lower left.
Inscribed Cecho Salviati on the verso.
420 x 170 mm. (16 1/2 x 10 5/8 in.)


A large number of Boscoli’s surviving drawings, amounting to almost a third of the total, are copies after the work of other artists; indeed, more drawings of this type by Boscoli survive than by any other draughtsman of the period. Always drawn in his own distinctive style, Boscoli’s copies are often quite free in their interpretation of the original figure or composition.

This fine drawing is a copy of the figure of Saint Sebastian in Rosso Fiorentino’s altarpiece of The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints, today in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Signed and dated 1522, the painting was commissioned by the Dei family for their chapel in the Florentine church of Santo Spirito, where Boscoli would have been able to see and study it more than sixty years later. Rosso’s altarpiece had been highly praised by Vasari, who noted that it was ‘painted with marvelous grace, draughtsmanship, and vivacity of colouring’, and the painting seems to have had a profound impact on artists working in Florence in the later 16th century. As Julian Brooks has noted of the present sheet: ‘One drawing by Boscoli records a pose which obviously impressed him, and may have been used as a reference, although the dating is problematic; the style seems relatively late. This is a study…that he made of a figure of St. Sebastian from Rosso’s Santo Spirito Dei altar-piece. A highly finished drawing, it features a careful construction, with very defined limits to the shading on the left and right edges, which suggests that it was designed to be kept. Boscoli uses variants of the same pose, with the right foot raised on a pedestal and the head looking sharply upwards, in his own work several times.’

Boscoli first used a variant of this pose for a figure of Apollo in his extensive fresco decoration of the Villa di Corliano, near Pisa, painted in 1592. He later returned to the pose for the figure of Saint Sebastian in his altarpiece of The Virgin and Child with Saints Andrew and Sebastian, painted in 1600-1602 for the Rossini chapel in the Duomo in Macerata. While the figure of Saint Sebastian in the Macerata altarpiece shows some similarities with the pose of the saint in this drawing, Boscoli’s preparatory drawing for the painting, in the collection of the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, displays a much closer relationship with the figure taken from Rosso’s painting, and must have been based on the present sheet.

While some of Boscoli’s copy drawings may have been intended as models for prints, most seem to have been made to record a pose or composition that he found particularly striking. At the same time, the highly finished nature of the present sheet and the use of framing elements on either side of the figure would suggest that the drawing may have been intended as an autonomous work of art. As Brooks points out, ‘although this pose was one that Boscoli loved and used several times, this drawing has been carefully made…and may have been intended for presentation or sale if not for his own purposes.’

Private collection, New York
Marcello Aldega, Rome, and Margot Gordon, New York
Acquired from them in 2003 by Jeffrey Horvitz, Beverly Farms, MA (his collector’s mark, not in Lugt, stamped on the verso).

Julian Brooks, ‘Andrea Boscoli and the Rossini chapel in Macerata cathedral’, The Burlington Magazine, March 1999, p.170; Nadia Bastogi, Andrea Boscoli, Florence, 2008, p.34, p.305, no.85.


Saint Sebastian, after Rosso Fiorentino


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