Denys CALVAERT, Attributed to (Antwerp, c. 1540 – Bologna, 1619)-

The Flagellation of Christ, Le Christ Before Caiaphas

44 x 33 cm. (17 516 x 13 in.)
Pen brown ink and brown wash over black chalk lines. Inscribed in ink, lower left, "Palma" and upper center, "no 135"

Provenance:
• Former Giuseppe Vallardi (1784-1863) collection, his stamp in blue ink, lower left (L. 1223)
• Former Louis Corot (ca. 1840-1930) collection, his stamp (L 1718)
• Former Charles Férault collection, his stamp (L.2793a)
France, Private Collection

Bibliography:
Fiamminghi a Roma: 1508-1608. Artistes des Pays-Bas et de la principauté de Liège à Rome à la Renaissance, Brussels, Palace of Fine Arts, February 24th – May 21st, 1995, Brussels, Palace of Fine Arts Society of Exhibitions, Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon, 1995.
• Simone Bergmans, Denis Calvart: peintre anversois fondateur de l’école bolonaise, Brussels, Palais des Académies, 1934.

Our drawing is probably by a Flemish artist working in Rome in the second half of the 16th century with a quality of execution comparable to the work of Denys Calvaert.

Calvaert was one of the Flemish artists active in Italy who came from either the northern or southern provinces of the former Low Countries and whom the Italians called Fiamminghi. Like many of these artist, Calvaert learned from the Italians while conserving Flemish characteristics, and thus produced hybrid works of exceptionally high quality execution.

Born in Antwerp, Calvaert arrived in Bologna in 1562 and went to Rome in 1572. Between these two art capitals, he completed his education by directly studying from antique architecture which holds an important position in his work. Almost systematically, it fills the background of his religious scenes, In our drawing, it can be seen in the faithful depiction of ionic columns.

An excellent draughtsman, Calvaert has left a tremendous collection of graphic works. The finesse and high technical quality of our drawing make us think that it is more than a preparatory work, and more likely conceived as a final work. Probably admired for its quality, the entire work has been finely incised as if the intention was to do an engraving of it.

Skillfully constructed in a “V,” our composition presents figures whose moving bodies are placed so as to cover the entire surface of the sheet of paper. In the two scenes presented in the foreground and middle ground, each figure is handled individually so as to give it special importance.

Through these exaggerated poses, Calvaert explores Mannerism to its highest degree. Indeed, the intensity of the two Biblical episodes, including the Flagellation in the foreground, and Christ before Caiaphas (Gospel according to St. John 11, 51-52 [transl note: in the French Catholic Bible]) in the middle ground, were depicted by many of his contemporaries (for example, Ambroise Dubois (Antwerp, 1542 – Fontainebleau, 1614), Flagellation, oil on canvas, 1576-1578, Rome, Borghese Gallery). It allows him to explore the effects of twisting bodies to a maximum, and do a virtuoso rendering of exacerbated powerful muscles under stress which produce this characteristic sculptural effect inherited from the Old Masters, and especially from Michelangelo (Caprese, 1475 – Rome, 1564), whose ceiling and Last Judgment Calvaert had copied in the Sistine Chapel.

Characteristic of Denys Calvaert’s work is the use of wash by filling surfaces to elegant effect in forming volume, in modeling shadows of musculature and in draperies, as well as the faces elongated by sinuous beards. The heads of expression are also very close to Calvaert’s oeuvre: eyes drowned in the shadow of arcades formed by the eyebrows are employed here to convey the ferocity of Christ’s torturers.

Our drawing is situated between the last period of Mannerism and the first manifestations of the Baroque. The extreme technical refinement brings it close to the hand of Denys Calvaert, who was a terrific representative of the crossroads of influence incarnated by late 16th century Rome. On a broader level, the work equally reflects the intense renewal of religious piety during the Counter-Reformation following the Council of Trent which established fixed rules concerning the representation of religious images.

M.O.
trans. chr

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