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Paduan School, 15th Century Study after a Roman Sacrificial Relief: the Suovetaurilia. Pen and brown ink, pricked for transfer. Private collection, New York.

Paduan School, 15th Century

Study after a Roman Sacrificial Relief: the Suovetaurilia

Pen and brown ink, pricked for transfer; 167 x 285 mm., 6 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. Old inscription, l.c. “del mantenga,” Bernat stamp, lower right corner.

The Mantegnesque parallel hatchings associate this drawing with Padua, but the figural style is distinct from his own of that of his workshop. It is also unlike Parentino’s, Zoppo’s, or any of the followers of Squarcione.

This is one of the earliest surviving drawings after a famous relief, now in the Louvre,[1] which shows the suovetaurilia, a sacrifice performed by the Romans at a variety of occasions for purificatory or apotropaic purposes.[2]

While the relief is an elegant, if poorly preserved, example of Julio-Claudian sculpture the drawing gives it an archaic character that reflects the vision of mid-to late fifteenth century northern Italy. We may assume that the draughtsman may have made a rough drawing on paper in Rome, where the relief was at the time. Then he subsequently made this fair copy, which was meticulously pricked for transfer.

Provenance: Francesco Calzolari; Conte Ludovico Moscardo (Lugt 2990); with Matthiesen; with P. & D. Colnaghi, cat. Old Master Drawings, April-May 1966, no. 3; The Paul and Helen Bernat Collection (stamp, l.r.); sale, New York, Christie’s, 11 January 1994, no. 255 (ill.)

Exhibitions: Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, n. d.

Bibliography: unpublished.

Related literature: P. P. Bober, Drawings after the Antique by Amico Aspertini. Sketchbooks in the British Museum, London, 1957pp. 46f.;  P. P. Bober and R. Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture, Oxford, 1986, no. 190, Pauly-Wissowa, RE, Suppl. V, s.v. Hostia, 2

[1]Inv. MA 1096

[2]Pauly-Wissowa, R E, Suppl. V, s.v. Hostia.