The grotesque and fantastic world of Carlo Biffi

By Cortona Fine Art

Few Milanese probably know the name of their fellow citizen Carlo Biffi (1605-1675). Like his father Gianandrea, he was employed as a sculptor in the Fabbrica del Duomo in Milan, which he enriched with various sculptures.

His real passion, however, was drawing and engraving. Carlo was attracted to the bizarre, the ironic, the grotesque: his very rare etchings recall moments and figures out of time, such as the large fake volcano (but with real fire and flames) built in Piazza Duomo in 1630 to celebrate the birth of a Spanish prince, or the portrait of the comedian Francesco Scapino, 'crowned' (in his words) by a daring garland of intertwined musical instruments.

Carlo Biffi, Study of Five Heads. Cat. The Seduction of Drawing, Galleria Cortona
Carlo Biffi, Study of Five Heads. The Seduction of Drawing, Galleria Cortona

The exceptional discovery of the only currently known drawing by Biffi, a vigorous pen and watercolour sketch depicting a Study of Five Heads, sheds new light on this still unrecognised protagonist of the Lombard Baroque.

As reconstructed by Giulio Bora, the sheet, dedicated to the investigation of five different male and female physiognomies, was probably executed for private collector and recalls in style and subject another incredibly rare engraving by Biffi known in only two copies (one at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the other at the Bertarelli Collection in Milan).

The precious drawing will be one of the protagonists of the exhibition The Seduction of Drawings, which will open on December 10 at Galleria Cortona in Milan (Corso Monforte, 38). The event will be accompanied by the publication of an illustrated catalogue edited by the art historian Luca B. Baroni.

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