Edited by Luca Giunta Baroni

This superb virile nude belongs to the most typical graphic production of Mola, characterised by the use of red and black chalk and the representation of classical figures in a bucolic context1.

Although the artist has executed numerous virile studies, the detailed rendering of the figure, the dimensions and the excellent state of conservation make the sheet here discussed one of the most significant and aesthetically pleasing within the artist’s oeuvre.

The drawing is not connected to a specific work, but the same figure occurs, both in the same direction and in counterpart, in various works by Mola, testifying to the artist’s habit of basing his compositions on a small repertoire of graphic prototypes.

Pier Francesco Mola, Mercury and Argus., etching. Oslo, Nasjonalmuseet.
Fig. 1. Pier Francesco Mola, Mercury and Argus, etching. Oslo, Nasjonalmuseet.

Among these it should be mentioned The Dream of Joseph, part of a cycle of frescoes in Palazzo Pamphilj in Nettuno and investigated in a group of drawings preserved in London, Düsseldorf and on the art market2.

In the British Museum sheet, the figure of Joseph, facing right, is mirrored in a pen sketch replica along the edge of the sheet, similar to the one discussed here. On the same sheet, the same composition is also transformed in that of Joseph in a Holy Family.

Further comparisons can be made with the composition of Erminia and the shepherd, especially in the preparatory sketch in Oslo (Nasjonalmuseet) and with the etching with Mercury and Argo (fig. 1)3.

Pier Francesco Mola, Bacchus, or the Allegory of Taste, 1662-66, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia
Fig. 2. Pier Francesco Mola, Bacchus, or the Allegory of Taste, 1662-66, Oil on canvas, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia

On the compositional level, the scene is similar to that of the canvas depicting Bacchus (Taste) (fig. 2), part of a group with the Allegories of the senses executed by Mola for Cardinal Flavio Chigi and remained partially unfinished upon his death in 16663.

1 The reference text on Mola is Petrucci 2012, that expanded the previous catalogue of Lugano, Roma 1989-1990. Among the most recent contributions on drawings see Prosperi Valenti Rodinò 2017, pp. 259-275.

2 Nicholas Turner, Italian drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum - Roman baroque drawings, c. 1620 to c. 1700, 2 voll., London 1999, I, no. 216, with prev. bibl.; Petrucci 2012, pp. 417, 457, no. D21.

3 Oslo, Nasjonalmuseet, no. NG.K&H.B.15234

4 Francesco Petrucci, I “Sensi” di Pier Francesco Mola per il cardinale Flavio Chigi, “Antologia di belle arti”, LIX, 62, pp. 167-172; Petrucci 2012, p. 396, no. 125.

Disegni e dipinti di maestri antichi. Presentati da Enrico Cortona, exh. cat. (Milano, Sotheby’s, 19-30.04.1985), Milano 1985.

Milan, Galleria Cortona, 1985; Sotheby’s – London, 27.1.1999, lot 30.

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