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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Study of a bust of Vitellius, turned slightly upwards to right Charcoal, heightened with white (discoloured), on blue paper Verso: The same subject Charcoal, heightened with white (discoloured), on blue paper

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1533-1594
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 303 millimetres
    • Width: 198 millimetres (sight measeurement)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed: "12"
  • Curator's comments

    All the Vitellius drawings have traces of numbering upper r. This and the following four drawings (1885-5-9-1657 to 1660) are after the bust, or a cast of it, of the so-called "Grimani Vitellius". According to Ridolfi, Jacopo Tintoretto spent a considerable amount of money towards collecting plaster casts of ancient and Renaissance marbles (Ridolfi 1648, p. 14). Boschini (ed. 1966, p. 140f.) describes the collection of casts in the Tintoretto shop; among these were Daniele da Volterra's small models of Michelangelo's sculptures in the Medici Chapel, for which Tintoretto had expressly sent to Florence (Ridolfi, loc. cit.). In 1584 Borghini (p. 456) pointed out that even in his sixties Tintoretto continued to collect and study models of famous statues, such as those by Giambologna, and never tired of copying them. It is also significant that, according to Soprani's 1674 biography, the Genoese sculptor Niccolò Roccatagliata made models for Tintoretto (Soprani 1674, p. 88).
    From Domenico's will of 1630 (Tozzi 1933, p. 316) we know that a cast of the so-called 'Grimani Vitellius' was in the Tintoretto shop. The bust, now in the Archeological Museum in Venice, arrived in Venice in 1523 when Cardinal Grimani had it sent from Rome (see Bailey1977, pp. 105ff.). From 1525 to 1593 was displayed in the Ducal Palace, where privileged artists could study and make plaster casts from it. As noted by Bailey, it is possible that the cast which belonged to Tintoretto was the one that appears in the 'Portrait of a Gentleman' attributed to a follower of Jacopo Tintoretto in Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (cf. Bailey, fig. 4). Bailey also gives an account of the extent to which the bust was known by 16th Century artists with a list (see below) of the many drawings of it associated with Jacopo Tintoretto and his shop, where drawing after sculpture had become a very important practice. So much that, as Ridolfi reports (loc. cit., p. 262), "Domenico Tintoretto Hebbe pensiero di lasciar dopo di se à pittori la propria casa con lo studio di rilieui, disegni e modelli, che teneua del Padre suo; acciò vi si formasse un'Accademia, oue ogn'uno potesse studiare" [he had the idea to bequeathe to painters his house and the study with sculptures, drawings and models, which belonged to his father; so that an Academy could be established, where anyone could study]. As pointed out by Rosand (1970, pp. 29ff.), a Venetian "Accademia di Pittura e Scultura", uniting two of the arts of disegno, was not established until 1754, leaving the town well behind compared to other Italian and European artistic centres. Venetian guilds were still tied to the 'Serenissima' not only for the taxes they had to pay, but also for the fact that each member had to be ready to serve the State whenever necessary. Domenico's idea to form an independent "Accademia" would have been very welcomed among artists, as the Tintoretto shop was well equipped for such an undertaking. Domenico chose instead to follow the traditions of the Venetian family workshop, bequeathing everything to his brother Marco and his brother in law to be, Sebastiano Casser (cf. Tozzi, loc.cit.). Tintoretto himself has used the model of the Grimani bust in some of his paintings yet, as pointed out by Whitaker (1985, p. 182), not as many as one would expect, considering the number of times it was drawn. The head appears for example in the following works: "Christ and the adulterous woman", Milan, Pinacoteca dell'Arcivescovado; "Ecce Homo", San Paolo, Brasil, Museu de Arte; "Christ at Supper in the house of Simon the Pharisee", Escorial, Nuevos Museos; "Christ before Pilate", Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco; "Last Supper", Venice, San Polo (cf. R. Pallucchini and P. Rossi, 'Tintoretto. Le opere sacre e profane', Milan, 1982, nos. 115, 117, 120, 284, 305; pls. 144, 146, 151, 376, 399). The large number of drawings after the Vitellius bust (see Bailey's list), make it difficult to establish which ones are by the hand of Jacopo and which are by the workshop pupils. Inv. Nos. 1885-5-9-1656 to 1660 had been catalogued by the Tietzes in 1944 as by Tintoretto's shop and have been rejected also by Rossi in 1975 (P. Rossi, 'I disegni di Jacopo Tintoretto', Florence 1975, p. 47). Turner and Royalton-Kish included no. 1885-5-9-1657 in their 1980 catalogue as by Jacopo (N. Turner and M. Royalton-Kisch, 'Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Century of Genius. Master Drawings from the British Museum', exh. cat. Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia and Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, 1980, no. 63). Whitaker published no. 1885-5-9-1657 recto as "it could be autograph" (1985, p. 181, fig. 10.3), after having stressed the difficulties in distinguishing between autograph and workshop production. She tentatively puts forward the same issue for no. 1885-5-9-1658 recto (fig. 10.4) and adds that in both cases the versos are much weaker. According to the same scholar the present drawing (1656) is "clearly by a less accomplished follower". Bailey's comment and list of drawings after the 'Grimani Vitellius' associated with the Tintorettos are as follows (Bailey, loc. cit., pp. 108ff.): "The first list of Tintoretto's drawings presumably from the plaster cast of the Grimani "Vitellius" was by D. Hadeln, who mentioned nine drawings and attributed them to Jacopo (D. von Hadeln Zeichnungen des Giacomo Tintoretto, Berlin 1922, p. 24). The Tietzes (1944) rejected Hadeln's attributions, preferring to attribute the drawings to Tintoretto's shop. Furthermore, they added ten drawings to the list, making a total of nineteen drawings ultimately deriving from the Grimani "Vitellius" (The Tietzes list the following drawings to Jacopo: Haarlem, Coll. Koenigs, I 341, and Paris, École des Beaux-Arts, 12054; to Marietta Tintoretto, Milano, Coll. Rasini; to Domenico Tintoretto, London British Museum, 1907-7-17-42, 43 and 53; to Tintoretto School, Florence, Uffizi, 734 and 1662E, Haarlem, Coll. Koenigs, I 340, London British Museum, 1885-5-9-1656 to 1660, Munich, Graphische Sammlung, 2982, Naples, Gabinetto delle Stampe (their no. 1852), Oxford, Christ Church Library, L9, Paris, Louvre, 5382). Only eighteen drawings are listed by the Tietzes, as they did non list L 10 in Oxford, Christ Church Library, a drawing noted by Hadeln. The drawing in Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 717 is in my opinion not by anyone connected with the Tintoretto School, neither is the fine North Italian drawings sold in Munich, at A. Weinmuller on October 13th and 14th, 1938 (H. Leporini, Die Versteigerun von Handzeichnungen bei A. Weinmuller, Munchen, Pantheon 1938/Oct., 331); six additional Tintoretto drawings after the Grimani "Vitellius" are listed here (see below). All of the twenty-five drawings are in black chalk, and all except two have white heightening. The drawings appear on sheets of many different colours ranging in size from 430 x 280 mm to 260 x 200 mm. At least eleven of the sheets were drawn on the verso. Most of the sketches occupy nearly all of the paper and are of the plaster cast seen from various angles. A plurality of the drawings are of the head seen slightly from below. A very fine drawing by Jacopo Tintoretto of the Grimani "Vitellius" is in the University of Erlangen. On the verso is a refined version of the study on the recto (Baileys fig. 5; the drawing is described in Tietzes, no. 1580, as the "head of a Roman Emperor" by Jacopo [but they admit not having seen it]). The drawing is very close in style to Jacopo's sketches of the same model from the Koenigs Collection and the École des Beaux Arts..... p. 122: A description of six relatively unknown Tintoretto Drawings of the Grimani 'Vitellius' 1. Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, 58.392 Nearly frontal view of head, looking slightly right and tilted left. (verso: similar view but looking more right) Charcoal heightened with white on grey-green paper; 312 x 222 mm. Bibliography: Ivan Fenyö, Disegni Veneti del Museo di Budapest, Neri Pozza, Vicenza 1965, 32. The Museum lists the drawing as by a member of the Tintoretto workshop. the drawing is related to the one in Lübeck. 2. Erlangen, Universitätbibliothek, Bock 1542. Nearly frontal view of head, turned slightly left, and seeen slightly from below. (verso: similar view but turned slightly more left) Black chalk heightened with white on buff coloured paper; 411 x 272 mm. Late inscription: "Jacopo Tintoretto" Bibliography: Tietzes, p. 280 3. Lübeck, St. Annen Museum, AB 389. Nearly frontal view, turned slightly right, seen slightly from below. Black chalk heightened with white on grey paper; 325 x 250 mm. Provenience: Collection Sir Thomas Lawrence. Bibliography: Max Hasse, Die Zeichnungen Alter Meister in der Lübecker Graphischesammlung, Museen für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Hansestadt lübek, 1969, 24. The drawing is listed by the museum as by Jacopo Tintoretto. In my opinion the drawing is related to the one in Budapest. P. Brookes says this drawing is most like the plaster cast in the Birmingham City Art Museum. Brookes, Exhibition of Birmingham Paintings, cat. 10 . 4. New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1959.17. View of head turned slightly right, seen in foreshortening from below. Charcoal heightened with white on lined grey paper; 332 x 250 mm. Bibliography: Bean and Stampfle, Drawings from New York, 68. In my opinion the drawing is related to the one in Paris, École des Beaux Arts. 5. New York, Collection Woodner. Frontal view of the head turned slightly left. (verso: similar view) Black chalk heightened with white on oatmeal coloured paper; 406 x 278 mm. Inscription: verso "Testa di Vitellio Cavata dal Rilevo" in brown ink. Watermark: Greek cross on circle (Briquet 2989) Bibliography: Frederick G. Schab, Woodner Collection I: A Selection of Old Master Drawings before 1700, William H. Schab, New York 1971, cat. 31. The drawing is listed in the collection as by Jacopo Tintoretto. 6. Paris, Collection Pilarts Nearly frontal view of head, seen from below (recto: Study after Michelangelo's Samson with the Two Defeated Philistines) Black chalk heightened with white; 350 x 229 mm. Provenience: Christie's, 29 June 1971, lot 53. Exhibited: Royal Academy Diploma Galleries, The Paul Oppe Collection, 1958, no. 382. National Gallery of Canada, March 1961, no. 148. Edinburgh, Italian 16th Century Drawings from British Private Collections, 1969, no. 83, pl. 35." Stephen Bailey J. Paul Getty Museum Malibu" Lit.: D. von Hadeln, 'Die Zeichnungen des Giacomo Tintoretto', Berlin, 1922, p. 24 (as Jacopo); A.E. Popham, 'A Handbook to...the Department of Prints and Drawings', London 1939, p. 45; H. Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat, 'The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries', New York, 1944, no. 1832, p. 301 (as studio); P. Rossi, 'I disegni di Jacopo Tintoretto', Florence, 1975, p. 47 (as studio); S. Bailey, 'Metamorphoses of the Grimani "Vitellius"', in "J. Paul Getty Museum Journal", 5, 1977, p. 110; L. Whitaker, 'Tintoretto's drawings after sculpture and his workshop practice', in S. Currie and P. Motture (eds), 'The Sculpted Object', New York, 1985, p.181 (as studio); C. Bohlmann, 'Tintorettos Mahltechnik. Zur Dialektik von Theorie und Praxis', Munich, 1998, p. 44, n. 15 General Literature for Jacopo Tintoretto and the "Grimani Vitellius": R. Borghini, ed. A. Biscioni, 'Il Riposo', Florence 1584, pp. 450-56 [551-58]; C. Ridolfi, ed. von Hadeln, 'Le Maraviglie dell'Arte', 2 vols, Berlin, 1914, II, p. 14; M. Boschini, ed. Pallucchini, 'La carta del navegar pittoresco', Venice, 1966, pp. 140f.; R. Soprani, 'Le vite de' Pittori Scoltori et Architetti Genovesi...', Genoa, 1674, p. 88; R. Tozzi, 'Notizie biografiche su Domenico Tintoretto', "Rivista di Venezia", 1933, XI-XII, p. 316; D. Rosand, 'The Crisis of the Venetian Renaissance Tradition', "L'Arte", 1970, 11-12, pp. 5-53; S. Bailey, 'Metamorphoses of the Grimani "Vitellius"', in "J. Paul Getty Museum Journal", 5, 1977, pp. 105-22; L. Whitaker, 'Tintoretto's drawings after sculpture and his workshop practice', in S. Currie and P. Motture (eds), 'The Sculpted Object, New York, 1985, p. 177-200


  • Location

    Not on display (Italian Roy XVIc)

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  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Study of a bust of Vitellius, turned slightly upwards to r Charcoal, heightened with white (oxidised), on blue paper Verso: The same subject Charcoal, heightened with white (oxidised), on blue paper


Study of a bust of Vitellius, turned slightly upwards to r Charcoal, heightened with white (oxidised), on blue paper Verso: The same subject Charcoal, heightened with white (oxidised), on blue paper

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