Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo: Italian Drawings from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt & Ink Circus: Works on Paper by Gèr Boosten

February 7, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive

Paris Celebrates the
Art of Drawing


“A Palace and a Row of Houses behind a Town Wall” (c. 1560/70?), by Giovanni Antonio Dosio (?). © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

The Fondation Custodia, itself the keeper of a treasure trove of Old Master drawings, is now showing treasures from a German collection in the exhibition “Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo: Italian Drawings from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt (1430-1600).”

If, like me, you love the vitality, expressiveness and immediacy of drawing, you will not want to miss this show. As is often the case with this type of exhibition, however, the title is rather misleading. While the show does indeed include a handful of works by each of the artists given star billing, the great majority are by others, which does not necessarily mean they are any less masterly. Among the 90 pieces dating from the 15th and 16th century, some of which have never been exhibited before, there are so many outstanding ones that it is difficult choose a selection to discuss here.

Two of the more striking works are unattributed: “A Bad Thief, Study for a Crucifixion,” tentatively identified as having been made in Venice around 1450, and “Head of a Man Looking Upward” (Venice, c. 1500), a portrait of a young man with the foppish


“Head of a Man Looking Upward” (c. 1500), Venetian. © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Venetian Renaissance hairstyle called a zazzera.

One of the interesting things about the exhibition is the way it shows how different artists used drawings in different ways, whether as preparatory studies for other works, character studies or finished works in their own right. Some are highly finished, while others are rough sketches meant to be worked out in finer detail in the final painting. A good example of the latter is Titian’s “Sketch of Saint Sebastian for the High Altar in Santi Nazaro e Celso in Brescia” (c. 1519-20). The dynamic drawing roughs out the tensions of the pose,


Left: Titian’s “Sketch of Saint Sebastian for the High Altar in Santi Nazaro e Celso in Brescia” c. 1519/20 © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. Right: detail of the finished altarpiece.

about the only thing it has in common with the beautiful figure in the finished work, a photo of which hangs next to the drawing. Another sketch, by Jacopo Bassano, “Study of a Reclining Figure I” (c. 1567) is so rough as to appear almost abstract.

A good example of character studies is a sheet by Michelangelo covered in “grotesque” heads


“Grotesque Heads and Other Studies” (c. 1525?), Michelangelo, © Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

(also a favorite subject of Leonardo’s), with other studies of heads and a leg on the opposite side of the sheet.

I would also like to single out for sheer loveliness “A Palace and a Row of Houses behind a Town Wall” (c. 1560/70; pictured at the top of this page), possibly by Giovanni Antonio Dosio, an architect and sculptor who worked mostly in Rome and Florence; “Study for a Portrait of a Young Man” (c. 1490-95) by Filippino Lippi; and Tintoretto’s “Study of the Head of Michelangelo’s ‘Giuliano de’ Medici’ (c. 1545/60).

Bringing the art of drawing up to the present, the foundation is also holding the exhibition “Ink Circus: Works on Paper by Gèr Boosten”


“Blinding” (2009). © Gèr Boosten

in its basement. The Dutch artist’s skilled drawings fall on the dark side with a touch of surrealism, depicting everything from frightening insects to dead bodies in the street that called to mind the work of the photographer Weegee.

Anyone who appreciates drawing might want to check out the specialist art fairs being held this week in Paris. See the Events listing for details.

Heidi Ellison

Fondation Custodia: 121, rue de Lille, 75007 Paris. Métro: Assemblée Nationale. Tel.: 01 47 05 75 19. Through June 21, 2015. Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon-6pm. Closed Monday. Admission: €6. www.institutneerlandais.com

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