Jean - Luc Baroni Ltd

Giulio Pippi


Giulio Pippi, called Giulio Romano

Rome circa 1499-1546 Mantua



Recto: Study of a Standing Classical Figure, a Shield at his Side; verso:  a Sketch of a Niche

Recto: Pen and brown ink and wash, squared in black chalk, with brown ink framing lines; verso: black chalk.
Bears inscription: di Giulio Romano.

Watermark: Fleur de Lys, with initial: A.,

246 by 138 mm (9 3/4 x 5 1/2 in.)

Provenance: Acquired by Philip Pouncey in New York, thence by inheritance to his wife, Myril Pouncey; her estate sale, New York, Sotheby’s 21 January 2003, lot 8.

Born in Rome, as his name proclaims, Giulio was apprenticed to Raphael at an early age and rapidly promoted to chief assistant for his ability to absorb and emulate the master’s style. With Raphael’s death in 1520, Giulio took over the studio. He completed the cartoons for the Sala di Constantino in the Vatican, leaving the actual execution of the frescoes to colleagues and assistants, and this became his established pattern of work. In 1524, Federico II Gonzaga invited him to Mantua. Giulio’s status as Raphael’s heir and his well-known connoisseurship of antique art made him highly desirable to this ambitious patron and collector. The Gonzaga court was already developing as a centre of magnificence and sophistication attracting artists of the level of Correggio and Titian. Giulio worked for Federico until the latter’s death in 1540 and for his brothers thereafter. Given citizenship, status and wealth, Giulio was described by Cellini as living like a Lord1. In return, this polymath artist transformed the city, designing and directing the building and decorations of the Palazzo Te (1526-34) and the prime apartments of the Palazzo Ducale (1536-38), as well as numerous churches, facades, gardens, sculptural projects, tombs and theatrical and celebratory ephemera.  Decorative designs for everything from stucco work to spoons flowed from his hand, as did a smaller quantity of easel paintings and altarpieces, cartoons for tapestries and erotica. From Mantua, Giulio extended his influence by means of designs sent out for projects in other cities while printmakers and his own students disseminated his inventions and his style, chief amongst the latter being Primaticcio who left Giulio’s studio after six years for the service of the French King, Francois I.   Perhaps fifty at the time of his death, Giulio left behind an enormous body of work, in Vasari’s translated words,   `Let it be enough to say that he was so facile in every field of art, and particularly in drawing, that we have no record of any one who has produced more than he did2

Konrad Oberhuber, in the exhibition catalogue of 19893, points out that Giulio, like Raphael, seems rarely to have drawn without a clear purpose in mind. Unlike Perino and Parmigianino, who covered sheet after sheet, recto and verso, with figure studies, Giulio drew, not to exercise his hand or eye but to present the idea of a figure, scheme or detail and these drawings he preserved and stored for future reference. In his later career, Giulio was surrounded by students and assistants but, leaving nothing to chance, made drawings for every aspect of his projects, from the grand figure schemes to the tiniest areas of stucco and grotesque. Assistants were expected to follow these preparatory works as faithfully as possible and, according to Oberhuber, anyone working in too autonomous a manner would soon disappear from the scene. Since Vasari’s biography, drawing – disegno – has always been described as the heart of Giulio’s brilliance.  Vasari records visiting the artist’s house and being shown a large cupboard filled with his studies after the antique and plans of buildings as well as drawings inherited from Raphael4. Thefts of Giulio’s studies from the workshop testify to their contemporary value and collectors including and ever since Vasari have sought them avidly. Giulio himself seems always to have cherished and protected his own drawings, partly as a means of establishing a form of copyright and to the extent of making signed copies of his projects as proof of his invention5.

The static and monumental aspect of the present drawing implies that it was preparatory for a trompe l’oeil sculpture conceived as forming part of a decorative ensemble.  No secure connection has been found, either recently or while the drawing belong to the Pounceys, but the fine attention to detail and the squaring over the whole sheet do suggest that it was made with a specific purpose in mind.  A very comparable figure with the same formal weight and classical poise, a figure of Vulcan, can be seen frescoed on the wall of the sala dei Cavalli in the Palazzo Te6. The use of the shadow to give three-dimensionality to the grisaille frescoed figure, which is painted as if standing in a niche, is matched exactly in the present drawing. A comparison may also be made, in figure type and execution with a study of Prudence, now in the Harvard University Art Museum; that drawing has delicate modelling in wash and the same light squaring7.   Though possibly made earlier in his career, it may have been used as a model for the statue of Venus Pudica, a further trompe l’oeil fresco in the sala dei Cavalli.

With the shield resting at his side, the man depicted is perhaps an old warrior. The distortions of the large hands, long arms and narrow head and shoulders lend the figure a clumsy charm. These characteristics can be seen quite often in Giulio’s late work: the figure of St. Longinus in the Louvre Nativity which is dated to around 15368 is an obvious example, in a grand painting; the fresco of Jupiter Enthroned in the Sala of Giulio’s own house in Mantua9 has a comparable spirit, while figures similar in both proportion and costume are to be found in the series of tapestry cartoons illustrating the Triumph of Scipio probably executed in the mid-1530s10. The loose, fringed drapery and buckled cloth shoes liken him to many of the figures of captives in these designs but there is nothing of subjugation in the pose which clearly derives from the classical prototypes of soldiers and senators Giulio knew so well from his study of roman antiquity11. Interestingly the black chalk study on the verso, though slight and faint, clearly outlines the shape of a niche with pedestal, curved back and arched top. This is a seemingly rare example of the artist using both sides of the paper and though the niche as drawn is smaller than the figure on the recto, it is entirely concordant with the idea of the sheet being preparatory for a trompe l’oeil sculpture12.


1    Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography translated by George Bull, New York, 1980, ch.40, 80:1.
2    Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects (edition of 1568) translated by Gaston de Vere, London 1996 , vol. II, p.136
3    Exhibition catalogue, Giulio Romano, Mantua 1989, p. 145
4    Giorgio Vasari, op. cit., London 1996, p.137
5    See Janet Cox Rearick, in exhibition catalogue, Giulio Romano Master Designer, New York, Hunter College, 1999, p.25.  
6    See exhibition catalogue, op. cit., Mantua 1989, p.144.
7    See exhibition catalogue, op. cit., 1999, New York, cat.31.
8    See exhibition catalogue, ibid., 1999, p.139
9    See exhibition catalogue, op cit., 1989, p.228
10    See Frederick Hartt, Giulio Romano, New Haven 1958, vol.II, figs. 474-483.
11    Giulio collected drawings after the antique, his own and those of other artists, but also, like his patron Federico Gonzaga, actual antique sculpture. See exhibition catalogue, op. cit., 1989, p.233 (essay by Howard Burns, `Quello cose antique et moderne belle de Roma’ Giulio Romano, il teatro, l’antico’.
12    Exhibition catalogue, op. cit., 1999, p.19.

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