The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence
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Federico ZUCCARO

The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Medium Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over a pencil underdrawing.

Dimension 53 x 28.5 cm (20⁷/₈ x 11¹/₄ inches)

Pen and brown ink and brown wash, heightened with white, over an underdrawing in black chalk, on two joined sheets of paper, with framing lines in black chalk. 
Made up at the lower corners, and laid down.

This very large drawing is a preliminary compositional study, with several significant differences, for one of Federico Zuccaro’s most significant late works; the monumental altarpiece of The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence in the Chiesa dei Cappuccini in Fermo, which is signed and dated 1602. (The painting was was long thought to be by Taddeo Zuccaro, before Federico’s initials were revealed when the large canvas was cleaned and restored in 1979.) The Fermo altarpiece, for which the artist was paid 200 scudi, was the last of Federico's three depictions of the subject of the death of Saint Lawrence, following an altarpiece in the Roman church of San Lorenzo in Damaso, commissioned from Taddeo but painted by Federico in 1568, and the centrepiece of the large retablo mayor at the Escorial, painted between 1586 and 1588, but now lost and known only through an engraving by Pierre Perret of 1589. The Fermo painting appears to be particularly inspired by Titian’s great Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence of c.1557-1558, today in the Venetian church of the Gesuiti, which Federico must have seen on one of his three visits to Venice. (He would also have known the later version of the subject that Titian painted in 1567 for Philip II of Spain, which was on the high altar of the church of San Lorenzo at the Escorial when he was working there twenty years later.)

James Mundy has kindly confirmed the attribution of the present sheet, and has noted that it is an autograph version or copy of another drawing by Federico Zuccaro, of similar dimensions, in the collection of the Uffizi in Florence. He further suggests that the present sheet and the Uffizi drawing, which both show significant differences from the finished painting, particularly in the background, should be regarded as studies for the Fermo altarpiece, for which no other preparatory drawings are known.

This drawing bears the collector’s mark of the Cypriot art dealer and collector Nicos Dhikeos (1896-1987), who had settled in France by 1916. He lived in Lyon, where he owned a gallery dealing in Old Masters, and from 1930 onwards assembled a large and varied group of Old Master and 19th Century drawings, primarily of the Italian and French schools. While much of his collection were acquired at auction, Dhikeos also bought large groups of drawings from the heirs of the 20th century collectors Dr. A. Tardieu and Louis Maudet. The drawings were largely dispersed in the years following Dhikeos’s death in 1987, and sheets from the collection are today in the British Museum in London, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., among many other institutions.

Medium: Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over a pencil underdrawing.

Dimension: 53 x 28.5 cm (20⁷/₈ x 11¹/₄ inches)

Provenance: Nicos and Dimitra Dhikeos, Lyon (Lugt 3529)
Galerie Terrades, Paris, in 2016
Private collection.

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