Edited by Luca Fiorentino

Paolo Gerolamo Piola’s period in Rome greatly influenced his artistic path and, although in service to Maratta’s workshop, he certainly must have looked around at the vast artistic panorama of the Capital.

In this sheet we can note the influence of Daniel Seiter, Giaci to Calandrucci and all of the Cortona circle, naturally including Giovanni Passeri, who revolutionised the second part of the 17th century in Rome1. After having prepared the sheet with a dark brown wash (almost like the preparation of a canvas for painting), Paolo quickly delineated the figures, spaces and direction of the composition in black chalk.

As in a monochromatic sketch for a painting, he then used the brush to apply slightly diluted brown ink and white bodycolour heightening, using ‘a risparmio’ or paint-saving techniques and transparency to play up the half tones and deeper, darker areas of the prepared paper. He used brown ink to emphasise some parts, like the outlines of the figures, and chose to use grey washes to attenuate the white heightening and thus obtain half tones with which to better depict the modelling of surfaces and figures (see, for example, the musculature of the sleeping Argus).

The qualities described above suggest that the sheet is a preparatory sketch, but it may also be an autonomous study executed to help the artist experiment with lighting effects in the composition. Although not recognised to date as a preparatory work for a painting, the work stands as a high quality example of Paolo Gerolamo Piola’s drawing.

1 For further material on the artist, see also: Maria Clelia Galassi, Dentro la genesi del disegno genovese tra fine Seicento e primo Settecento. L’affiorare della figurazione in fogli di Domenico Piola, Gregorio De Ferrari, Paolo Gerolamo Piola, in L’underdrawing del disegno genovese, eds. Maria Clelia Galassi and Margherita Priarone, Genoa, 2014, pp. 67-89; Mary Newcome-Schleier, Paolo Gerolamo Piola, in ‘Antologia di Belle Arti’, 1, 1997, pp. 37-56.

Alessandra Toncini Cabella, Paolo Gerolamo Piola e la sua grande Casa genovese, Genova, 2002, pp. 118-119 and fig. 175.

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