Attributed to Baccio Bandinelli
Florence 1493 Florence 1560
Three Philosophers disputing by a Niche

PROVENANCE: Jonathan Richardson Senior (1665-1745) (Frits Lugt 2183) part of his mount; Lambert according to Esdaile catalogue; William Esdaile (1758-1837) (Frits Lugt 2617), his sale Christies 18th June 1840 lot 24 as Baccio Bandinelli (with lot 25 4/6 to Haitren), Old Master Drawings from the Stichting Collectie P. en N. de Boer, 4 July 1995, lot 2; Professor Raymond E. Pahl, FBA, (1935-2011).

Pen and brown ink

258 x 177 mm (10 1/8 x 7 in.)


Bartolommo Bandinelli, also known Bartolommeo Brandini and called Baccio, worked as a sculptor, draughtsman, and to a lesser extent as a painter. He was not popular amongst his contemporaries and even Bernard Berenson dismissed him as a tiresome and sycophantic schizoid who should detain no one seriously interested in the study of Renaissance art. 1 However more recently there have been two significant exhibitions which have looked at his work in depth as a draughtsman. In 1988 the exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Baccio Bandinelli, Drawings from British Collections and the Louvre in 2008, both have assisted in scholarly appraisal of his work. 2

Bandinelli was apprenticed to his father, a prominent goldsmith, and he went on to study under the sculptor Giovanni Francesco Rustici. Bandinelli sculpted works include his important marble group of Hercules and Cacus, completed in 1534, in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. This was commissioned by the Medici Pope Clement VII. As soon as it was unveiled, it faced ridicule, Cellini compared the to 'a sack full of melons'. Afterwards, the Bandinelli tried to sabotage Cellini's career. Other works include a copy of the Laocon, now in the Uffizi; tombs of the Medici Popes Leo X and Clement VII in Santa Maria sopra Minerva (153641); bust of Cosimo I de' Medici (1539-40) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Piet in the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, Florence; works for the Duomo, Florence, including the high altar and its Adam and Eve (1551), now in the Bargello.

However Bandinelli placed great emphasis on his drawing and wrote

All my concentration was fixed on drawing: in the judgment of Michelangelo, of our Princes and other notables, it is above all in that activity that I have prevailed. Their Excellencies own a great number of them while others have been sent to Germany and France and others are dispersed throughout Italy, some of which I know have been sold for at least two hundred scudi apiece. 3

A large quantity of Bandinelli drawings are in the Uffizi, which contains about a quarter of his known existing work, and a large group are also in the Louvre. According to Ward Jonathan Richardson Senior, amongst other British collectors, owned a number of drawings by Bandinelli (according to him around five to eight sheets), indeed he once owned this drawing.

At the time of the auction in 1995 Roger Ward compared the rendering of the architecture of the present drawing to that in two Bandinelli drawings, both in the in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford: Study for the Base of the Doria Monument, and Project for the Tomb of the Medici Popes.4 The semi-circular niche and vaulting in our drawing are repeated in the former drawing, and the detailing of the architecture and features in the present drawing are also repeated in a similar way in the latter drawing.

The figures in our drawing, and their poses, recall the figures on the recinto in Florences cathedral and the philosophers in the Three Philosophers holding Tablets at an Altar, previously from the Duke of Devonshires collection, now in the Woodner family collection. 5

More recently Roger Ward 6 has commented on our drawing, from a photograph, that it is most likely by Bandinelli himself, and though the handling is a bit dry or mechanical, it is confidently handled. This is typical of his drawings of a similar purpose which describe individual components of a decorative frieze or some other relief ensemble intended to be executed in bronze – such as the drawing at Hamburg for a pulpit. Throughout our drawing, the artist has used a spiral or zig-zag hatching, where instead of lifting the pen from the paper, with each and every stroke, to create his famously regular pattern of parallel hatching, he would simply make a zig-zag pattern thus imitate the parallel hatching system. According to Ward none of his friends or followers ever did this, as far as he knows. He suggests that Bandinelli used this technique since it was quicker for him to duplicate a composition previously resolved in some other, now lost, drawing. An additional comparison is to a drawing on the art market in 2003, where the shading of the left thigh of Zeus, where Bandinelli at times was drawing so fast in terms of execution that he did not lift the pen from the paper and simply went racing along, make a rapid zig-zag at the end of each stroke.

1.B. Berenson, The Drawings of Florentine Painters, Volume 1, 1903, pp 254-55.

2.R. Ward, Baccio Bandinelli 1493-1560, exhibition catalogue, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 3 May-3 July 1988, and Carel van Tuyll van Serooskerken, Baccio Bandinelli, Muse du Louvre, 2008.

3.R. Ward, op.cit., p.11.

4.R. Ward, op.cit., figures 19 & and catalogue number 31.

5.M. Jaffe, The Devonshire Collection of Italian Drawings, Tuscan and Umbrian Schools, London, 1994, no. 11, p.48.

6.10 and 11 April 2012, written communication from Roger Ward.

This is catalogue Number 5, in the on-line e-catalogue of 'Drawings, Prints and Paintings from the Collection of Professor Raymond E. Pahl, FBA (1935-2011)', see here for the catalogue.