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Two Barbarian Prisoners Seated before a Trophy of Arms
Pupini, Biagio (Copy after Polidoro da Caravaggio)
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Pupini, Biagio (Copy after Polidoro da Caravaggio)

Two Barbarian Prisoners Seated before a Trophy of Arms

Ca. 1524. Wash, White lead, Pencil, Grey-brown ink, Touches of chalk / pencil on blue paper. Not on display

The two Barbarian prisoners appear over the main door-way, to the left of a military trophy, in Polidoro´s facade decoration of the Palazzo Ricci, Rome (Ravelli, 1978, pp. 311-27; Leone de Castris, 2001, pp. 136 and 138, fig. 148). The frescoes, in chiaroscuro, are divided into scenes on different levels, the main cycle depicting episodes from the life of Mucius Scaevola. The decoration was probably carried out at some point between 1524 and 1527, the year when Polidoro fled Rome following its sacking by imperial troops. In spite of being exposed to the elements for more than four-and-a-half centuries and suffering numerous restorations, the decoration remains in tolerably good condition to this day, with the section, Trophy Flanked by Prisoners, one of the better-preserved passages. On the opposite side, another pair of prisoners, counterparts to the present two, appears seated to the right of the same trophy.

Polidoro´s Roman palace facade decorations were copied repeatedly in their day, when they were as much admired as the great frescoes of Michelangelo and Raphael in the Vatican. Being visible to all corners in the streets of Rome, they had the advantage of being vastly more accessible than the Vatican frescoes, then seen by few except the most powerful members of the Church. It was the inventiveness of Polidoro´s facade decorations that seems to have made them especially popular with young artists training in figure composition. Evidence of their acclaim is provided by the quantities of drawn copies after their designs, of which a good group is in the Prado. Sometimes these copies are a more accurate record of the original appearance of Polidoro´s frescoes than the now ruined originals, in the few instances where they have survived.

Submitting to the style of another artist´s work tends to conceal a copyist´s individuality. It is therefore not usually possible to identify the copyist responsible for a given drawing after one of Polidoro´s facade designs. Moreover, many of the copies that have survived must be by beginners who in the end did not go on to become painters in their own right, working instead as engravers, furniture-makers, metal-workers and other related professions. Perforce, these will always remain anonymous. Yet in spite of the many artists who copied from Polidoro´s frescoes, it is occasionally possible to hazard a reasonable guess at the artist´s identity, but only when the copy in question presents particularly strong stylistic features in its own right, as here. The thickly applied white highlights in the prisoners´ draperies and the fine pen-work used to suggest the decoration of the arms piled up in the trophy behind are typical of Pupini, an Emilian follower of Polidoro.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Chicago, Art Services International, 2008, p.359

Technical data

Inventory number
Pupini, Biagio (Copy after Polidoro da Caravaggio)
Two Barbarian Prisoners Seated before a Trophy of Arms
Ca. 1524
Wash; White lead; Pencil; Grey-brown ink; Touches of chalk / pencil
Blue paper
Height: 154 mm.; Width: 185 mm.
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

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. 76, 359.

Turner, Nicholas, From Michelangelo to Annibale Carracci. A century of Italian drawings from the Prado, Art Services International, Chicago, 2008, pp. 359.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 1449.

Exhibitions +

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: 30-07-2020 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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