- Museum number
Raffaello Vanni albums: head of 'Seneca', after Guido Reni
Counterproof, retouched with black and white chalk on buff paper
- Production date
- 1595-1673 (circa)
Height: 263 millimetres
Width: 266 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- With 1886,0104.3.27 and 29, this is one of three copies in the Vanni albums after Guido Reni's sculpted bust of 'Seneca' (multiple versions). Reni's head was widely copied as a training exercise in the Seicento, as the number of casts and drawn copies demonstrate (see, for example, groups of the latter at Windsor and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice). According to Malvasia, casts had become ubiquitous as a studio prop for this purpose ('cammina per tutte le scuole'; 'Felsina Pittrice', vol. 2, 1678, p. 82). The BM drawings were clearly made by several apprentices, whose struggles with the bust’s contortions betray their inexperience (see especially 1886,0104.3.29). Inexperience may also explain the present study, which is built up on a counterproof, revealed by the faintness of many areas, and the reversed direction of the hatching. The drawings therefore give an idea of the extent to which Malvasia’s claim was true beyond Emilia, but Vanni's knowledge of it is far from surprising, as he spent his formative years in Reni's milieu in Rome: initially in Reni's own studio towards the end of 1611, and latterly in the bottega of Antonio Carracci, who worked in Reni’s shop from 1610. Vanni may well have encountered the sculpture when new, for Malvasia clearly states that it was made sometime during his periods in Rome (1601-14). Given his proximity to Reni's shop it is probable that the latter possessed a cast, for use in his workshop and perhaps also the Academy of drawing he oversaw in Siena towards the end of his life. Like Reni himself Vanni repeatedly deployed the head in his own work, and its continued influence is keenly felt in some of his more overtly caricatured portrayals of elderly men, spanning several decades of his career. See for example 1886,0104.3.5 (verso) and 103 (recto and verso) and 184 (verso).
On the 'Seneca' and its diffusion see esp. O. Kurz, "A Sculpture by Guido Reni”, 'Burlington Magazine', 1942, pp. 222–26 and A. Bacchi, "'Fece di rilievo e se ne diportò bene': Guido Reni e la 'famosa testa di Seneca'", in M. Cellini ed., 'Storie barocche: da Guercino a Serra e Savolini nella Romagna del Seicento', exh. cat., Bologna, 2004, pp. 51-3 and 166.
For a general description of the Vanni workshop albums see 1886,0104.3.1.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The register describes the vendor simply as "Mr Ready"
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number