Cupid Drawing His Bow

Cupid Drawing His Bow

c. 1560s

Federico Barocci

(Italian, 1528-1612)

Black chalk with pastel (stumped in places), heightened with white chalk, squared with black chalk; framing lines in graphite

Support: Gray-green laid paper, laid down on cream(3) wove paper

Sheet: 42.4 x 27.2 cm (16 11/16 x 10 11/16 in.)

Dudley P. Allen and Delia E. Holden Funds 1969.70

Location

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The grid of squares drawn over this figure was used by the artist or his workshop to transfer the composition to a larger format.

Description

This drawing formed part of the painter Federico Barocci's painstaking working method, which began with studies from nature, included sculpted models in wax, and concluded with full-scale cartoons in color. A detailed figure study such as this would have followed numerous compositional and life studies in preparation for the final cartoon. The squares drawn over the figure indicate it was meant to be transferred to a larger format. Though no corresponding painting by Barocci exists, the drawing appears to have been made in preparation for a picture representing Venus seated in the heavens with Cupid on her knee as he draws his bow to aim at an unsuspecting mortal below. The technique of using black and colored chalks reflects the introduction, in the 1560s, of colored chalks (called "pastelli") to Italy, knowledge of which likely spread from Venice down the Adriatic coast to Barocci's home in Urbino.

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