Andrea BOSCOLI (Florence, 1560 - 1607)

Four Male Figures, Studies for the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew

26.7 x 36.2 cm. (10 ½ x 14 ¼ in.)
1587 . Sanguine . In lower right corner, a monogram posterior to the sanguine : M [with an arrow above it] Bonaro[tti].

• Arnold Otto Meyer (1825-1913), Hamburg, (Lugt 1994).
• Probably his sale, March 19th-20th, 1914, Leipzig, C. G. Boerner, lot 543.
• United States, Private Collection.

The Artist
Endowed with a bizarre and vivacious personality, as enthusiastic about painting as astrology, music, and poetry, the cosmopolitan Florentine Andrea Boscoli accumulated contacts and artistic experiences that shaped his art and became, in his turn, an inspiration to the artists of the following generation.

The painter began his apprenticeship under Santi di Tito (1536-1602), a painter profoundly committed to the Catholic Reform and a certain Florentine classicism. After a short journey to Rome, attested by drawings reproducing antique statues and friezes by Polidoro da Caravaggio, and where he frequented Northern painters as well as Jacopo Zucchi and Federico Zuccaro, the young artist returned to Florence. In 1584, he paid his right to enter the Accademia del Disegno, the drawing academy.

Boscoli worked a lot in his native city, but also in Pisa, Siena, and at the end of his life, in the Marches. His rapid sketches in crayon or pen after masters as diverse as Benozzo Gozzoli, Corregio, Titian, and Murziano, are evidence of travels to Parma, Genoa, and Venice, as well as of his insatiable curiosity. Drawing from several sources, his style is that of a late international spectacular Mannerism coming out of Pontormo, and his style marked as much by Vasari’s decorative efforts as by Barrocci’s vibrant light. Very early, his own aesthetic became apparent, characterized by the care given to details and an unconventional inventiveness in his compositions before, near the end of his life, adopting a more expressive style far removed from the naturalist efforts of his earlier works.

The Commission
In 1587, Andrea Boscoli was sollicited to participate in the decoration of the cloisters of the Compagnia della Santissima Annunziata of San Pietro Maggiore, today the Oratory of San Pierino. Consecrated to the torments suffered by the twelve apostles, the frescoes of San Pierino constituted the first example in Florence of a martyrological cycle based on Post-Tridentine models blending limpid statement with strong spiritual impact. The sisterhood confided the realization of the whole project to several Florentine artists : Bernardino Poccetti who seemingly assured oversight of the whole endeavor, Giovanni Balducci, Bernardino Monaldi, Cosimo Gheri and Boscoli, who was attributed the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, and, on the left, on a simulated pillar, the grisaille figure of Temperance.

This was Boscoli’s first public commission and the young artist delivered an audacious fresco with delicate acidic tonalities, linear contours, colored shadows, and details precisely described. The composition is separated in the center by a scaffolding which defines two very distinct levels. The upper part, which is arched, is occupied by an apostle attached to a post and his two torturers, while the lower part, which is larger, is dominated by the figure of the Roman commander in extravagant armor who imposes his authority on the women seated on the ground and on the martyr’s disciples who are no other than the members of the sisterhood.

Preparatory Works
The narrative and emotional intensity of the Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew resides primarily in the studied poses in pronounced contrapposto of a few main figures with which the artist seems to have been preoccupied. Thus, if the composition of the bozzetto in oil on wood conserved in Vienna is already that of the final work, the protagonists’ poses sometimes differ considerably. This sketch is preceded by several sanguine drawings on unprepared paper with similar dimensions which concentrate solely on the anatomy, while neglecting draperies, accessories, and the interaction between figures.

Our Drawing
Until the discovery of our folio, only four sketches were known, all of them conserved in the Uffizi in Florence : one for the executioner on the left, two for the one on the right, and one – the most finished – for Temperance which wasn’t really part of the scene. Our drawing is the only one to unite several male academies, of which three were re-used for the figures in the Martyrdom, by almost always modifying arm positions as in the Uffizi sanguine. The pose of the man all the way on the left, his arms crossed over the head, is the one, in reverse, of the Roman soldier behind the general. The second study is preparatory to the executioner on the right : in the end, only the spread legs were used in the fresco. The man seen full face with his left arm stretched out and eyes raised to the sky corresponds exactly to the saint’s tormented figure. Finally, the man laying with his head tipped backwards could refer to an initial idea which was not kept or to another of Boscoli’s works.

Sculpted by a strong light coming from the upper left, the athletic bodies are described in strongly shaded surfaces in which the white of the paper left in reserve is constantly juxtaposed to tight more or less insistent hatching. The crayon’s movement overrides the static poses and is materialized in the muscles stretched to an extreme, as well as the second man’s agitated hair. Long diagonal lines invade the background of the drawing, and thus accentuate the effect of volume, as does the almost brutal and pathetic presence of the figures despite their being removed from religious context.

General Bibliography (Unpublished Work)
Anna FORLANI TEMPESTI, Mostra di disegni di Andrea Boscoli, exh. cat. Florence, Uffizi Gallery, Drawings and Prints Cabinet, Florence, Olschki, 1959.
Anna FORLANI TEMPESTI, “Andrea Boscoli,” Proporzioni, IV, 1963, pp. 85-176.
Nadia BASTOGI, Andrea Boscoli. Pittore e disegnatore fiorentino tra la Toscana e le Marche, Florence, Edifir, 2008.

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