Red chalk and red wash
400 x 260 mm. (15 3/4 x 10 1/4 in.)
The drawing style of the Sienese artist Astolfo Petrazzi was first defined by Philip Pouncey, the key to the identification being an old attribution on the verso of a drawing in the Albertina 1. Petrazzi was a successful and productive painter in Siena, working in a conservative style that owed much to his likely master, Francesco Vanni, and to Alessandro Casolani. For a brief period in the 1620s Petrazzi was in Rome where he painted in an altarpiece in the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. Perhaps surprisingly Petrazzis drawings are not particularly reminiscent of Vannis, their wiry energy suggesting instead the influence of Florentine reformist artists such as Domenico Passignano and Matteo Rosselli. The pleasing combination of red chalk with red wash used in the present drawing, and the treatment of the figures, especially the circular pools of shadow to denote the eyes, are very characteristic of Petrazzis draughtsmanship. Interestingly, the drawing is based quite closely on Drers treatment of the subject in his woodcut from his celebrated Life of the Virgin series of c. 1505 (Hollstein VII, 200) (figure 1). The disposition and poses of the group of figures in the foreground differ little from those in Drers composition, except that the Virgin actually holds the doves rather than offering them in a cage; two children are added at her feet; and the costumes (like the architecture in the background) are updated and made more Italianate. The drawing is a significant addition to the British Museums rather exiguous holdings of seventeenth-century Sienese drawings; it also serves as an excellent example of the long-lasting impact of Drers prints on Italian art.
1.P. Pouncey, Trois nouveaux dessins de Rutlio Manetti et une hypothse pour Astolfo Petrazzi, Revue de lArt, IV (1971), no.14, pp.67-71.