Bartolomeo Passarotti
Bologna 1529-1592 Bologna
Studies of Four Legs in Profile, one an Ecorch study, seen from behind, circa 1560

PROVENANCE: Private collection, The Netherlands.

Inscribed in the lower left hand margin in pen and brown ink, and in a contemporary hand di mano di Barto Passarotti/ Bolog., black chalk underdrawing, pen and brown ink, pen and brown ink framing lines, drawn on laid paper

282 x 208 mm. (11 x 8 1/8 in.)


The paper is lightly foxed throughout, the drawing is not laid down, there is no watermark in the laid paper, there is a minor hole in the lower left corner, there is minor surface abrasion to the brown ink in places, the ink is otherwise fresh and in a good condition.


Passarottis beginnings, according to a biographical study by Angela Ghirardi1, are obscure and no works from his early period are known. Before establishing himself in Bologna in 1560 he worked in Rome with Taddeo Zuccaro. Passarottis work in Bologna is covered by a twenty year period in Bologna, bordered by the altarpiece for San Giacomo Maggiore, dated 1564-5 of The Madonna enthroned with Saints and The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple in the Pinacoteca, Bologna, of 1583. Passarottis earliest works reveal an artist in control of his Emilian tradition based on Correggio, Parmigianino and Nicol dellAbate. The Parmesan components of his style are combined with the powerful physiques and the bizarre acrobatics of Pellegrino Tibaldi and the lucid illustrations of marginal, grotesque details reminiscent of Northern and especially Flemish art. Passarotti played a leading role in the cultural life of sixteenth-century Bologna. Malvasia records he was involved in fierce battles that raged when the painters tried to separate themselves from the still medieval guilds of the saddlers, sheath makers and sword makers thereby upgrading their social status in the city. The dispute was settled in 1569 by the institution of the new Compagnia dei Pittori e Bombassari. Passarotti can be linked with the social and religious reforms of Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti as well as the scientific and botanical research carried out by Ulisse Aldrovandi. Indeed this interest in anatomical research links with our drawing as well as Head of Demon, also drawn in pen and brown ink, from a private

collection. 2

Our drawing is a characteristic anatomy study by the artist and can be compared to a number of drawing by the artist, including Studies of a Draped Right Leg and separate study of a Foot from the Ralph Holland Collection, Study a nude in profile to the right, with a subsidiary study of the same and of a leg and Three Studies of Legs, see from Behind.3

The attribution to Passarotti has been confirmed, on the basis of a digital photograph, by Dr. Corinna Hper, and she has dated the drawing to circa 1560, early in the artists career. 4

1.The Age of Correggio and the Carracci, Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Washington and elsewhere, 1986-7, page 177.

2.Drawing in Bologna, 1500-1600, Exhibition catalogue, University of London Courtauld Institute Galleries, E. Llewellyn and C. Romalli, 1992, number 43.

3.Galleria Portatile, The Ralph Holland Collection, Sothebys London, 5 July 2013, lot 239; and Christies London, 10 July 2001, lot 49 and Christies London, 5 July 1988, lot 44.

4.Email communication dated 13 November 2015.