Description & Technical information

Made up at the top and bottom edges and laid down on an old mount.
A fragment of text from a French auction or exhibition catalogue (‘73. Deux hommes nues, debout.’) pasted onto the backing sheet.

The study of human anatomy was an essential aspect of a 16th century Florentine artist’s academic training, and was accomplished mainly by the study of posed nude models in life drawing classes, as well as the occasional dissection of a cadaver for the purposes of studying the bones and musculature of the body. As one scholar has noted, however, ‘Novel study aids produced in the circle of the Accademia del Disegno further enabled artists to acquire knowledge of the human body through the process of drawing. 'Scorticati', figures stripped of skin, were modeled of inexpensive material (gesso, clay, or wax), with their exposed muscles alternatively flexed or relaxed depending on the positions in which they were posed. The figurines were crafted as objects of drawing exercises, some of which were apparently conducted at the academy.’ Similarly, as another scholar has commented, ‘The infrequent availability of cadavers for study necessitated the creation of models of the flayed human form. These 'scorticati', usually composed of clay or wax, were fabricated for the academy’s drawing classes. The most famous and influential scorticati were those produced by the academician and sculptor Pietro Francavilla, a pupil of Giambologna, and by Cigoli…Because of their quality and utility, Francavilla’s and Cigoli’s were widely duplicated and eventually cast in bronze.’

This study of a flayed male figure by Andrea Boscoli is a copy of a scorticato statuette by the Franco-Flemish sculptor Pietro Francavilla (1548-1615), a pupil and assistant of Giambologna in Florence. The only extant cast of this écorché sculpture is today in the Jagiellonian University Museum in Cracow in Poland, where it has been recorded since the late 18th century. (Standing approximately 42 cm. high, this is one of three ecorché bronzes by or attributed to Francavilla in the collection of the Jagiellonian University Museum.) Francavilla was known to have a particular interest in anatomy, and published a treatise on the subject, entitled Il Microcosmo, accompanied by his own illustrations. As Anthea Brook has noted of Francavilla’s bronze in Cracow, ‘in this statuette the mannerist delight in the intricacies of contrapposto is taken to unusual lengths. The static poses of earlier anatomical illustrations of the 15th and 16th centuries were developed by the time of Vesalius’s Treatise (1543) into a more mannerist style, in which the bend of the heads and the gestures of the hands are expressive and pathetic. It would indeed be difficult to find a more instructive example of mannerist sculpture than the present statuette.’ The Florentine biographer Filippo Baldinucci wrote of Francavilla that he produced a number of écorché statuettes in terracotta that were cast several times and were avidly studied by many artists.

Boscoli produced three other drawings after Francavilla’s scorticato statuette, from different angles. Two drawings in the Uffizi, both on blue paper, show the same figure from the right side and from the front, and strongly lit from the left. Monique Kornell has noted of the Uffizi drawings that ‘the evocative use of lighting, characteristic of the style of the Florentine draughtsman, matches the dramatic nature of the pose...The figure arches its back with its right arm flung across its body.’ Another drawing by Boscoli, showing the same figure from behind and drawn on blue paper, was with Stephen Ongpin Fine Art in 2015 and is today in an American private collection.

Boscoli’s own interest in anatomical drawings of this type finds close parallels in the similar studies of his contemporary in Florence, Ludovico Cardi, known as Cigoli (1559-1613). Around 1600 Cigoli produced a well-known wax model of a male écorché figure, known as Lo Scorticato (or La Notomia) and today in the Museo Bargello in Florence. Cigoli’s only known sculpture, the Scorticato was much celebrated in his lifetime and beyond and seems also to have been freely copied by Boscoli, in other drawings now in the Uffizi.

In his unpublished thesis on Boscoli’s drawings, Julian Brooks commented on the artist’s ‘characteristically strong chiaroscuro’ in his ecorché drawings, and adds that they ‘seem more concerned with the general effect created by the dramatic pose and taut musculature than the intricate detail per se.’ The Boscoli scholar Nadia Bastogi, who has noted ‘the heroic dynamism of these anatomical studies’, has dated these drawings to the final years of the 16th century. Although Anna Forlani Tempesti agreed with this dating, Brooks has suggested a slightly earlier date of c.1590-1595 for these ecorché studies, while Kornell has dated the Uffizi drawings to the late 1570s or early 1580s.

Period:  1400-1600, 16th Century
Origin:  Italy
Medium: Pen, Brown ink, Brown wash, Underdrawing in black and red chalk
Signature: Inscribed Michael angelo Buonaroti. at the lower right.
Inscribed No.2 and Bandinellii on the backing sheet.

Dimensions: 40.6 x 23.6 cm (16 x 9¹/₄ inches)
Provenance: Comte Jean-Joseph-Marie-Anatole Marquet de Vasselot, Paris (Lugt 2499), his mark indistinctly stamped in red at the lower right
His sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 28-29 May 1891, lot 67 (as Michelangelo, ‘Deux Écorchés. Étude à la plume.’)
An unidentified collector’s mark in the form of a coat of arms indistinctly stamped in red at the lower right
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie’s, 23 January 2002, lot 23
Private collection.

Literature: Julian Brooks, The Drawings of Andrea Boscoli (c.1560-1608), unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of Oxford, 1999, Vol.I, p.166, p.353 (not illustrated); London, Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, Renaissance to Futurism: A Selection of Italian Drawings 1500-1920, exhibition catalogue, 2015, unpaginated, under no.15.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints