You are in: Online Resources > Online Exhibitions > Portraits by Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630) > ...

Drawings

'The greater part of these are in black on turquoise paper with adroit touches of [white] chalk; they have great verisimilitude, and some are touched with red, so that they appear coloured and made of flesh; they are so natural and alive, that in that genre one could not do better.'
(Giovanni Baglione, Lives of the artists, 1642).

Leoni's biographer Baglione went on to say that he followed the lead of his father Ludovico Leoni, in making his portraits 'alla macchia', meaning that they were 'done seeing the subject only once, and rapidly.' Leoni was able to record a face quickly at one sitting, and then work it up later, either as a development of the same drawing, as a painting, as an engraving, or as a variant of the original drawing. His facility at making portraits 'alla macchia' meant that he recorded in his memory the experience of being in front of his subject, so that he could redraw that person with the same vitality and verisimilitude as if the person were still sitting or standing in front of him; this also brings the person before the viewer.



Faustina Pacifica of Rome

1671D

Black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, 1614

Nothing is known of the sitter beyond the likeness and information recorded on this drawing. Her name and Roman origin are indicated on the back of the sheet.

The bulk of Leoni's drawings remained in the artist's studio at his death in 1630, but were then quickly sold by his son to Prince Scipione Borghese. A volume of some 400 drawings passed through various collections before being sold in 1747, after which the drawings were dispersed.

Given by John Charrington 1933

1671D






Giulia Capellara

1671B

Black chalk with traces of white chalk on blue paper, May 1618

Nothing is known of Giulia Capellara beyond the likeness and information recorded on this drawing, but she may have been a member of the Capellari della Colomba family who later produced Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846).

On each drawing, the artist recorded the year (and from 1615 also the month) in which the drawing was made, and gave it a number that indicated its place in a chronological sequence (here the number is 101). The sitter's name and place of origin was often recorded on the back of the sheet, but in this case only the name is inscribed.

Given by John Charrington 1933

1671B



back to the top


Pope Urban VIII

Pope Urban VIII

Red and black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, c.1625

Maffeo Barberini (1568-1644) was born in Florence and was called to Rome at the age of 16 by his uncle Francesco, who held posts in the papal court, and whose considerable fortune Maffeo inherited in 1600. He was created cardinal-priest in 1606 and elected pope as Urban VIII on 6 August 1623.

This drawing lacks Leoni's usual inscription of date and number. The slightly generalised modelling of the features suggests that it could be a varied repetition of another drawing, although it may have been made directly in connection with Leoni's engraving of Urban VIII made in 1625. Both show the Pope younger and in ruder health than in Leoni's later drawing of him, dated December 1629 (British Museum, London).

From the collection of The Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge



Cardinal Alessandro Orsini

Cardinal Orsini

Red and black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, March 1624

Alessandro Orsini (1592 -1626) was brought up with his elder brother Paolo Orsini at the Medici court in Florence. He was created cardinal by Pope Paul V in 1615. Alessandro was a patron of Galileo, who in 1616 addressed his work on the tides to him in the form of a letter (Discorso sul flusso e il reflusso del mare), and requested that he passed it on to the Pope as part of an attempt to get the Papacy to allow discussion of the Copernican planetary system.

Alessandro distinguished himself in 1621 with his charity during an epidemic in Ravenna. Returning to Rome he devoted himself to piety and asceticism. Pope Urban VIII refused his plea to be allowed to resign his cardinalate and enter the Society of Jesuits.

From the collection of The Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge

back to the top


Cardinal Pietro Maria Borghese

Cardinal Giorgio

Red and black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, December 1624

Pietro (or Pier) Maria Borghese (1599-1642) was a cousin first-removed of Pope Paul V. His rise resulted from the desire of the new pope Pope Urban VIII to confer a cardinalate on a member of the Borghese family (from whom he had had received his). So when he became cardinal on 7 October 1624 it was with special dispensation for the fact that he had not yet taken sacred orders. He received the deaconry of S. Giorgio in Velabro on 13 November 1624, shortly before Leoni made this drawing, and was known as 'Cardinal S. Giorgio'. He became a member of the Academia dei Desiosi of the Medici court in Florence. He was created cardinal by Pope Paul V in 1615. Alessandro was a patron of Cardinal Maurizio.

Pietro Maria later had his portrait painted by Pietro da Cortona (1696-1669), by which time he had filled out.

From the collection of The Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge



Cardinal Francesco Sforza

Cardinal Sforza

Red and black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, March 1621

Francesco Sforza (1562-1624) received a military education under Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma, and later at the court of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, whose sister he married. He combined both military and religious careers, serving first as captain general of the military forces in the Low Countries.

He was created cardinal deacon by Pope Gregory XIII in 1583, and brought to his new office his old military spirit: as papal legate in Romagna (1591-7) he rid the territory of bandits by overseeing the death of 800 of them. He crowned Popes Leo IX and Paul V in 1605. By the date of this portrait he was Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati (1620) and had just participated in the sixth of his seven papal enclaves, electing Gregory XV.

From the collection of The Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge

back to the top


Cardinal Andrea Baroni Peretti Montalto (?)

Cardinal Birretta

Red and black chalk heightened with white on blue paper, June 1626

The inscription on the back of this drawing is hard to read, but it may say 'Cardinal Bironi', which accords with the identification of the sitter in Downing College records.

Andrea Baroni Peretti Montalto (1572-1629) was created cardinal in 1596, and participated in the papal enclaves of 1605, 1621 and 1623. He crowned Gregory XV in 1621. When this drawing was made he had just become Bishop of Albano (March 1626).

From the collection of The Master, Fellows, and Scholars of Downing College in the University of Cambridge






NOTE

Leoni's facility at producing further versions of a portrait complicates the task of deciding which of his drawn versions is the earliest. Scholars have disagreed over whether the album of drawings in the Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence, which contains undated portraits that correspond in many ways with the engravings, are the original drawings made in front of the sitter, or later versions. The view taken here is that there is more specific immediacy in the other versions of the drawings that have Leoni's inscriptions giving the date of the portrait; the vivacity of these dated versions in various collections corresponds more closely to the prints. The versions in the album look more like homogeneous studio records, and if they were made in connection with the prints, then Leoni more successfully recaptured the experience of the original sitting when he came to engrave the plate.

back to the top