(Bologna 1561 - Milan 1629)
180 x 97 mm. (7 1/8 x 3 3/4 in.)
The fact that the organ shutters would have been seen from below accounts for the low viewpoint adopted in the present sheet. A pendant drawing in red chalk for the other interior organ shutter, depicting The Adoration of the Shepherds, is today in the collection of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, while a preparatory study in red chalk for The Crossing of the Red Sea and the Destruction of Pharoah’s Host is in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
Camillo Procaccini treated the subject of the Annunciation throughout his career; in frescoes, altarpieces and altar doors, and organ shutters, as well as in several drawings. Among stylistically similar drawings in red chalk of the same subject is a slightly later sheet of c.1616-1618, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The subjects of Procaccini’s religious paintings, depicted with narrative clarity and expressive force, served to emphasize the tenets of the Counter Reformation, and the artist came to dominate the artistic scene in Milan in the latter half of the 16th century. He painted altarpieces for almost every major church in Milan, and also received important commissions for easel pictures, such as a dozen large canvases of scenes from the life of the Virgin painted for the Spanish governor of Milan, Pedro de Toledo Osorio, between 1616 and 1618. The scale, complexity and inventiveness of his work so impressed the 18th century biographer and historian Luigi Lanzi that he described Procaccini as ‘the Vasari and the Zuccaro of Lombardy’. Among the significant projects of the artist’s late career were the decoration of the nave and apse of the Duomo in Piacenza, painted in collaboration with Ludovico Carracci between 1605 and 1609, and the frescoes on the vault of the choir of Santi Paolo e Barnaba in Milan, completed in 1625.
A gifted draughtsman, Camillo Procaccini was greatly admired as such by some of his major patrons, such as Pirro Visconti. He produced a number of highly finished drawings - studies of male nudes, mythological scenes and grotesque heads - which seem to have been intended as independent works of art for the collector’s market, and also established a successful drawing academy in Milan. That his drawings were popular among collectors in his lifetime is seen in the comments of a contemporary connoisseur, Girolamo Borsieri, who describes Procaccini as ‘he who, by those who know the excellence of the paintings, is praised as the master among modern draughtsmen, the one who in the smallest sketch observes the rules of perspective and of movement’, adding that ‘To obtain drawings by Procaccini…is more the fortune of a great prince than the reward of a private, albeit worthy connoisseur...I would almost stop trying to find them.’ Significant groups of drawings by Procaccini are today in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, as well as the Uffizi in Florence, the British Museum, the Louvre, the Accademia in Venice and the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Procaccini also produced a handful of etchings, all of religious subjects, during his time in Milan, several of which are dated 1593.
His sale, London, Sotheby’s, 1 July 1965, lot 131
Faerber & Maison, London
Private collection, London, in 1978
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 18 April 1996, lot 8
Nissman, Abromson Ltd., Brookline, Massachusetts
Martin J. Wilheim, New York, from 1999.