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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Study of a Female Figure

The Worcester Art Museum’s ink drawing, Study of a Female Figure (1992.55), shown above-left, was offered to the Worcester Art Museum in 1992 as a gift by David Richardson. Originally attributed to Giovanni Battista Castello (Il Bergamasco), the drawing in fact appears to be by Luca Cambiaso (Moneglia 1527 – 1585 Spain). Exemplifying Cambiaso’s distinct style, the work includes his signature use of curvilinear lines accented with wash, heavy ink application, mannerist poses, and abstraction of form. Further research indicates that the drawing served as study for a female figure in the central ceiling fresco at the Palazzo della Meridiana in Genoa (image above-right). Cambiaso’s study for the Return of Ulysses—the central fresco in the Reception Room—would be contemporary with the present study, accurately dating the drawing to circa 1560-1565.

In the mid-16th century, Admiral and Statesman Andrea Doria stabilized Genoa under his political leadership, allowing it to emerge as a major artistic center in Italy. Early transplants—including painters Perino del Vaga, Domenico Beccaufumi, and Giovanni Antonio de Pordenone—particularly influenced artists of the emerging Genoese school, of which Luca Cambiaso became the first great artist. He was a draughtsman and painter born in Moneglia, then part of the Republic of Genoa and the son of a painter and teacher, Giovanni Cambiaso. Considered the father of the Genoese school, Luca Cambiaso’s bold, unique style significantly influenced those in his circle. Cambiaso adopted the evident mannerist style of Perino del Vaga and combined it with the bold and dramatic line work of Pordenone.

The present drawing has been discussed with a number of scholars in the field, including foremost Cambiaso expert and director at the National Gallery, Jonathan Bober, and Old Master Italian drawing specialist Linda Wolk-Simon, formerly of the Morgan Library, who have both kindly confirmed the re-attribution to Cambiaso. This re-attribution to Cambiaso is significant as he is considered the founding artist of the Genoese school, which has gained increasing collector and academic interest over the last decade. Additionally, this study is a relatively rare instance of a true preparatory sketch for a single figure amidst countless drawings by the master himself and workshop pieces that served as autonomous works. As such, this piece is a real highlight of the museum’s collection.

- Oliver Joseph, MD, Curatorial Volunteer Researcher, Old Master Drawings

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