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Study for Saint John the Evangelist
Lanfranco, Giovanni di Stefano
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Lanfranco, Giovanni di Stefano

Terenzo, Parma, 1582 - Rome, 1647

Lanfranco, Giovanni di Stefano See author's file

Study for Saint John the Evangelist

1640 - 1644. Black chalk on dark yellow paper.
Not on display

This study is a preparatory work for one of Giovanni Lanfranco`s frescoes in the church of Santi Apostoli, Naples, as first suggested by Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Lanfranco, who was originally from Parma, began his apprenticeship with Agostino Carracci and continued it with his brother Annibale. Following a period in Rome, Lanfranco later worked for ten years in Naples, where he was in great demand as a fresco painter. Largely due to his influence, artists in Naples embraced the techniques of foreshortening and perspective that were prevalent in northern Italy in the sixteenth century, thanks especially to Correggio, whose work was a precursor of the bold illusionism of the Baroque.

Among the many artistic commissions that Lanfranco received in Naples, the decoration of the church of Santi Apostoli was the most binding. As documented by many archival records, between 1638 and 1646 Lanfranco was charged to execute the frescoes for the interior of the church, including those of the cross-vault, the transept, the choir (which bears his signature and the date 1641) and the vault of the nave. He also completed five paintings destined for the choir, and the famous fresco representing the Probatica piscina (The pool of Bethesda) just inside the entrance to the church.

The so-called Corpus Lanfranchiano, encompassing 476 drawings by Lanfranco now at Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, reflects the degree of his involvement and his total dedication to the Santi Apostoli project. According to Raffaello Causa, given the relationship between Lanfranco and the Farnese family, who, like the master, were originally from Parma, the entire Corpus of drawings might have been inherited by Charles III of Spain, son of Philip V of Spain and Elisabeth Farnese. Although this theory was later dismissed, the source of the Corpus is nonetheless Neapolitan. Among these sheets, Study for the apostle on the left wall of the second window in the left nave is clearly connected to the Prado drawing, through its style and location of the related figures.

The latter is, in effect, the Study for Saint John the Evangelist (whose symbolic element is the eagle), which is located on the side wall of the third window of the same left nave of the Santi Apostoli. Lanfranco worked in this area of the church between 1640 and 1644. The quadrettatura of the drawing (divided into squares on the page) that enabled the figure to be reproduced at the right proportions on the wall demonstrates Lanfranco`s consistent habit of using preparatory works. In this special case there are few differences between the original and the actual fresco. Typical of Lanfranco`s style, inspired by the Carracci`s teachings, the apostle figure has been drawn using a slight and lightly curvy line, reached with a delicate and soft technique. The saint is wrapped in abundant drapery with angular folds, and he is thought to be depicted from below, as his face dramatically foreshortened can attest. The black pencil in the drawing has slightly faded, possibly caused by past exposure to light. As other sheets in this series show, Lanfranco did not apply highlights in white chalk to his drawings. Similar works on paper from the same project by Lanfranco are now kept in the Uffizi Museum, Florence, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle, United Kingdom (Farina, V.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain`s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 110).

Technical data

Inventory number
Lanfranco, Giovanni di Stefano
Study for Saint John the Evangelist
1640 - 1644
Black chalk
Dark yellow paper
Height: 389 mm; Width: 186 mm
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

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

Mena Marqués, Manuela, Catalogo de Dibujos.Vol.VI. Dibujos Italianos del Siglo XVII, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1983, pp. 109-110.

Farina, V., Giovanni Lanfranco 'Study for Saint John the Evangelist' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 110.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 103.

Inscriptions +

Marca de colección no recogida por Lugt.

Exhibitions +

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

Dibujos Boloñeses
04.03.2003 - 25.05.2003

El dibujo europeo en tiempos de Valazquez. A propósito del Cardenal Borja en la Academia de San Fernanado
20.12.1999 - 30.01.2000

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

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