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Mars and Apollo / Mars and Apollo, alternative design
Il Bergamasco
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Il Bergamasco

Gandino, Bergamo, 1509 - Madrid, 1569

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Mars and Apollo / Mars and Apollo, alternative design

1566 - 1569. Wash, Pencil, Grey-brown ink on paper.
Not on display

In ancient mythology, Mars -the god of War- and Apollo -the god of the Sun, who is associated with omniscient powers of reasoning- come together as a result of Apollo´s discovery of the affair between Mars and Venus, the wife of Vulcan. Apollo witnessed their adultery, by dint of seeing and knowing everything that occurred in the world, revealing to Vulcan what had taken place on a visit to his forge.

This mythological story seems to illuminate the interplay between the protagonists in the present drawing. Mars raises both hands in wonderment at being caught. But there is an alternative position for his left hand grabbing at his sword, as if in anger, the drawing of which had evidently given the artist some trouble and which he eventually abandoned in a tangle of pen lines. The effeminate figure of Apollo gazes at Mars unnerved, his left hand held to his chest as if proclaiming his own innocence, his right hand gesturing forwards in acknowledgment of the undeniable truth of what had occurred. Behind him on the ground, is Apollo´s symbol, a lyre.

The traditional attribution of this impressive sheet to Il Bergamasco is undoubtedly correct. The style points to Castello´s Spanish period, between c. 1566/7 and 1569, and the early Spanish provenance for the drawing could be taken as some sort of circumstantial support for this dating. Nevertheless, still strongly apparent in the handling of the pen is the influence of the late pen-and-wash drawings of Perino del Vaga (1501-1547), one of the most successful of Raphael´s pupils who, towards the end of his career, worked extensively in Genoa. Especially typical of drawings from Perino´s Genoese period is the juxtaposition between the heavy, muscular outlines, which have often been gone over several times, and the contrasting little staccato flicks and swirls that now and then punctuate the calligraphy.

The painter, engraver and collector Francisco de Solís (c. 1620-1684), a former owner of this drawing, was active in Madrid. His collection of Old Master drawings was among the first to be formed in Spain, and many were by Spanish artists. Evidence of his past ownership may be deduced from the almost disfiguringly large and untidily written identifying inscriptions, in Spanish, that he wrote on the sheet, as here. Interestingly, in a recent technical examination of the present drawing, carried out at the University Complutense, Madrid (January 2004), it was discovered that the same ink used to write the inscription was found in some passages of the drawing itself, implying that Solís may have retouched some of the outlines. Certainly the iron-gall ink has corroded the paper, and it is possible that some of this same damage to the paper had already occurred in Solís´s time, in which case the collector may have been attempting some kind of rudimentary restoration.

Another drawing from the collection of the Museo del Prado that had once belonged to Solís is José de Ribera´s Head of a Warrior in Profile, where the inscription, this time written left of center of the sheet, reads: de Jusepe de Ribera; this is accompanied by the collector´s own name Solís spelled out on the opposite side (D2190, FA 823; Pérez Sánchez, 1972, p. 119, repr.) (Text drawn from Turner, N.: From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International-Museo Nacional del Prado, 2008, pp. 84-86).

Technical data

Inventory number
Il Bergamasco
Mars and Apollo / Mars and Apollo, alternative design
1566 - 1569
Wash; Pencil; Grey-brown ink
Height: 255 mm; Width: 173 mm
Francisco Solís; Collection of Ceán Bermúdez (?); Collection of Lefort; Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Collection de M. Paul Lefort. Dessins Anciens. . . Eaux-Fort, [s.n], París, 1869, pp. nº 300.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego, A Corpus of Spanish Drawings.Spanish Drawings.1400-1600, I, Harvey Miller, Londres, 1975, pp. nº 111 / lám. XXXV.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., I Grandi Disegni Italiani Nelle Collezioni Di Madrid, Silvana Editoriale D'Arte, Milán, 1978, pp. 24 / lám. 14; 52.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., El Dibujo Español de los Siglos de Oro, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1980, pp. nº 81.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de dibujos. Dibujos italianos del siglo XVI (por Nicholas Turner, con la colaboración de José Manuel Matilla), V, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 84, 289.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 84,289.

Turner, N., Giovanni Battista Castello 'Mars and Apollo' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 54.

Hidalgo Caldas, Beatriz, ''El coleccionismo ilustrado de dibujos en Sevilla y Madrid durante el último tercio del siglo XVIII y comienzos del XIX a la luz de la colección de Ceán Bermúdez'', Ceán Bermúdez. Historiador del arte y coleccionista ilustrado, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, Madrid, 2016, pp. 309-339 [314].

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 1676.

Inscriptions +

Front, lower right corner

[d]e mano / del Berga / masco
Inscribed with pen and ink. Front, lower left area


Exhibitions +

Juan Ceán Bermudez
19.05.2016 - 11.09.2016

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci. Un siglo de Dibujos Italianos en el Museo del Prado
25.10.2008 - 26.07.2009

Un siglo de dibujos italianos en el Museo del Prado. De Miguel Ángel a Annibale Carracci
23.11.2004 - 13.02.2005

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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