Antonio Masutti
Aviano di Pordenone 1813- Turin 1895
The Brazen Serpent [Numbers 21: 4-9]

Graphite, signed lower right in graphite Masutti, on wove paper

192 x 151 mm (7 x 6 in.)


The drawing is not laid down, it is hinged on the upper margin with conservation tape. The verso edge of the paper is browned through time staining, otherwise the paper and chalk are in an excellent condition. The drawing is hinged onto a modern conservation mount, with a traditional French blue hand coloured bespoke surface. The drawing is in a traditional antique style frame.

Antonio Masutti was a Friulian artist who was born near Pordenone, he worked as a draughtsman, lithographer, portraitist, miniaturist, caricaturist and illustrator. Masutti studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Venice and was granted a residency in Rome. In 1849 he moved to Turin where he seems to have remained for the rest of his life. Our drawing is technically close to a number of drawings by the artist, also in graphite, which are in the British Museum, and one recently on the market.1

The 106 drawings in the British Museum are also drawn in graphite, and date to 1849, and many are drawn in connection to the satirical journal Il Don Pirlone.

Our drawing depicts the moment when the Israelites, discontented with their life in the desert, spoke out against God and Moses. They were punished with a plague of poisonous snakes which only increased their hardships. Many died of snakebites, and when the people repented, Moses sought Gods advice how they should be rid of the snakes. He told them to make an image of one and set it up on a pole. Whoever was bitten would be cured when he looked upon the image. Moses accordingly made a serpent of bronze on a tau-shaped (T) pole, which proved to have a miraculous effect. The Israelites are depicted writhing on the ground, their limbs entwined by snakes. Moses, sometimes with Aaron, stands beside the brazen serpent.

1.Isabella Lodi-F Chapman, Antonio Masutti and the Political Caricatures of Il Don Pirlone, 'Print Quarterly', 2013, 3, pp 293-307. With Mattia Jona, Popular Festival in Venice, also drawn in graphite, 160 x 230 mm to the image.