Description & Technical information

The two soldiers at the upper left of this sheet of studies, one priming his rifle and another firing from the edge of a cliff, are repeated in a small drawing by Stefano della Bella in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey. The standing soldier in the centre of the composition, as well as the seated cavalier to his right, reappear in another small pen sketch formerly included in an album of drawings by Della Bella assembled by the late 18th century calligrapher Thomas Tomkins and dispersed at auction in 1975. A figure of a drummer, very close to that seen at the top left of the present sheet, appears in reverse in the left background of a drawing of A Standard Bearer in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

Similar studies of soldiers are found in a number of Della Bella’s series of small etchings of military subjects executed in the 1640s, such as the Receuil de diverses pièces très nécessaires à la fortification of c.1638-1643 and the Varii capricci militari of c.1641, as well as the Dessins de quelques conduits de troupes of c.1641-1647. The studies of horsemen in this drawing may also be loosely related to some of the series of nineteen prints entitled Diverses exercises de cavalerie, executed c.1642-1645. Finally, very similar figures of musketeers appear in two etchings from the series La milice moderne, published in 1646.

Medium: Pen and brown ink, over an underdrawing in black chalk.
Signature: Watermark: Fragment of a coat of arms.

Dimensions: 13.4 x 19.1 cm (5¹/₄ x 7¹/₂ inches)
Provenance: From the Kinnaird Castle album of drawings by Stefano della Bella, assembled in the early 19th century, formerly in the collection of Charles Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, Rutland
By descent to his daughter, Lady Catherine Hamilton Noel, who married the 9th Earl of Southesk, Master of Kinnaird Castle, Brechin, Angus, Scotland
The album dispersed, and the drawings sold individually through the Arcade Gallery, London, in 1946
Il Gabinetto delle Stampe, Milan, in 1976
Private collection, Italy
Private collection, [West] Germany
Bob P. Haboldt & Co., New York, in 1989
Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, London, in 2007
Private collection, New York.

Exhibitions: London, Arcade Gallery, Stefano della Bella: Exhibition of 60 of his Drawings, 1946, no.16 (priced at 20 gns.); Milan, Il Gabinetto delle Stampe, Turin, L’Arte Antica and Rome, Antiquaria Romana, Disegni di Stefano della Bella, 1976-1977, no.40; New York, Bob P. Haboldt & Co., Netherlandish and Italianate Old Master Drawings, 1989-1990, no.6.

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints