Pen and brown ink and brown wash, over black chalk, with extensive use of white heightening, on light brown paper. Inscribed in black chalk: paolo farinato and on the old mount in black chalk, gone over in red chalk: P. Farinato and again in pen and brown ink: Paul Farinate.
330 x 215mm. (22 ½ x 15 ⅞ in.)
One of the most significant figures of 16th century Verona, Farinati was active as a painter, printmaker, architect and sculptor. He was the son and pupil of a painter and is also thought to have studied with Niccolò Giolfino. Although few documents survive for his life, a chronology of his long career is relatively simple to establish, since many of his surviving paintings are dated and also because, from 1573 onwards, he recorded his commissions in an account book that survives today. His first documented work is an altarpiece of Saint Martin and the Beggar of 1552, commissioned by Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga for the cathedral in Mantua. At the same time, the Cardinal also commissioned paintings for the cathedral from a number of other leading painters from Verona, including Paolo Veronese, Domenico Brusasorci and Battista Agnolo del Moro. Between 1556 and 1558 Farinati worked at the church of Santa Maria in Organo in Verona, and he was to continue to work in his native city for most of the rest of his career. Frescoes in the Cappella Marogna in the church of San Paolo, painted in 1566, show the influence of Paolo Veronese, whose altarpiece in the church was flanked by Farinati’s murals. In the early 1570s Farinati painted a cycle of frescoes of mythological and allegorical subjects in the Palazzo Giuliari in Verona, and soon afterwards embarked on an important series of paintings and frescoes for the Veronese church of Santi Nazaro e Celso. His style remained fairly consistant throughout his mature career, which was largely spent painting works for churches in Verona, as well as frescoes for villas and palaces in the city and the surrounding countryside. By the last quarter of the 16th century Farinati was established as the leading artist in Verona, heading a large and active workshop whose members included his sons Orazio and Giambattista.
It is as a draughtsman that Paolo Farinati is best known today. He was prolific in this regard, generally working in pen and brown wash on coloured paper, with a liberal use of white heightening. He kept many of his drawings in albums, including the Libro di Carta Azzura1, which he mentions in his own account book. These drawings may have acted together as manuals for showing projects, figures and designs to his prospective patrons. His oeuvre includes numerous studies for altarpieces, easel pictures and fresco decorations, as well as a handful of designs for prints and architectural projects. Most of his drawings are highly finished, many to the extent of appearing to have been executed as autonomous works of art. Indeed, considerable numbers of his finished drawings were, acquired by local collectors. His fellow artist and biographer Carlo Ridolfi (1594-1658) noted of Farinati, ‘his drawings are greatly admired, and are collected by connoisseurs...His drawings, executed on tinted paper with touches of watercolour and white heightening, were so numerous that it would be impossible to recount their subjects, and many more exist in prints, of which a good number have been collected by amateurs [dilettanti], and brought to various places...’2 Farinati’s drawings were also valued by fellow artists, including Giorgio Vasari and Annibale Carracci, while Rubens is known to have owned several. One of the largest extant collections is today in the Louvre, while another significant group, numbering around fifty sheets, is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Farinati, who also worked as a sculptor, is said to have used small terracotta or wax figures as models for his drawings, much in the manner of Poussin some decades later. These models allowed him to study the effects of light on form.3
The present sheet, which is extremely well-preserved, cannot be connected to a surviving painting but the Angel Gabriel bears some resemblance to the equivalent figures in a drawing of the Annunciation in the Louvre (inv. 4809.) It does not appear that the sheet has been cut; the edge of the wing fades out rather than ending abruptly and the placing of the figure to the left, works to emphasise the sense of propulsion, of forward movement. Stylistically and technically, the drawing presents a fascinating example of Farinati’s skill and inventiveness. The white gouache is used in a most painterly manner, giving a bright floor onto which the angel’s shadow falls and granting luminosity to the clouds, Gabriel’s hair and the ripples of his convoluted drapery. The short, parallel strokes of the pen are particularly close to the manner of drawing in another study in the Louvre, which is inscribed with the date 1595 and shows Two Nymphs with Bacchus in a Niche (inv. 4892)4. The similarly strong use of brown wash to describe shadows and the equally substantial character of the figures, suggest that the present drawing belongs to the same period.
1. For information on Farinati’s account book, see David Rosand, review of Paolo Farinati, Giornale (1573-1606), ed. L. Puppi, Florence 1968, The Art Bulletin, September 1971, pp. 407-9.
2. ‘si fa molto stima de suoi disegni, che vengono raccolti dagli studiosi...I disegni da lui fatti furono per così due infiniti in carte tinte tocchi d’acquarelli e lumi di biacca, che sarebbe impossibile il raccontarne le inventioni, e molti ancora se ne veggono in istampa, de’ quali n’è stato raccolto gran numero da’dilettanti, e trasportati in varie parti...’; Carlo Ridolfi, Le maraviglie dell’arte, Venice, 1648; ed. Detlev Freiherr von Hadeln, Berlin, 1924, Vol.II, p. 132.
3. Diane de Grazia, ‘Paolo Farinati in the Palazzo Giuliari.’, Master Drawings, Winter 1982, p. 360.
4. See exhibition catalogue, Le dessin `a Vérone aux XVIe et XVIIe si`ecles, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1993, cat. 43.