- Museum number
David, figure study for a painting; wearing armour, with left hand on hip, looking to right
Pen and brown ink
Turner and Plazzotta 1991
His body faces forward but he leans slightly to the left, standing with his legs apart, his left arm on his hip and his right arm extended downwards; his head, which is clad in a helmet, is turned in profile to the right.
- Production date
Height: 219 millimetres
Width: 166 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The drawing is probably a study for David in 'Abigail appeasing the wrath of David by offering a gift', formerly in the Earls of Ellesmere's collection at Bridgewater House, destroyed in 1941. A list of the drawings related to the painting is in Turner and Plazzotta 1991, App. 31.
Turner and Plazzotta 1991
In 1636 Guercino painted a large-scale, full-length composition of 'Abigail appeasing the Wrath of David by offering Gifts' for Cardinal Antonio Barberini; the picture, one of the most prestigious commissions of that decade, passed from the Barberini to Cardinal Mazarin and thence into the Orleans collection and eventually into that of the Earls of Ellesmere at Bridgewater House, London, where it was destroyed in an air raid in 1941; its appearance is preserved in an old photograph (Salerno, 1988, no. 161). Although preparatory drawings for the picture formerly at Bridgewater House have been discussed together (Mahon, 'Disegni', 1969, under nos. 139-40) with studies for another composition of this same subject, half length and painted earlier, in c. 1625-7 (Salerno, 1988, no. 116; original also lost, but well recorded in various copies), they are clearly not all for the same project. Three of the drawings from the group are undoubtedly for the earlier composition and were identified independently by Meijer and van Tuyll (1983, no. 55) and Mahon and Turner (1989, no. 48).
Besides 1943,1113.15, which will be discussed below, it is worth listing here those drawings that we believe to be for the painting formerly at Bridgewater House (including those already cited by Mahon).
1. Genoa, Palazzo Rosso, inv. no. 5803, 'Three-quarter-length Study of a Man holding a Staff in both Hands', pen and brown ink, 285 x 172mm (for the halberdier standing immediately to the right of King David).
2. Haarlem, Teylers Museum, inv. no. H. 73, 'Study for Abigail placating David with Gifts' (Mahon, 'Disegni', 1969, no. 139).
3. Haarlem, Teylers Museum, inv. no. H. 33, 'Study for the Head of David' (Mahon, 'Disegni', 1969, no. 140).
4. London, British Museum, inv. no. 1943,1113.9, 'Head and Shoulders of a helmeted Warrior'.
5. Formerly Munich, Herbert List collection, 'Abigail with two Attendants and a Pack-mule' (see Mahon, 'Disegni', 1969, p. 135, under nos. 139-40; the drawing is reproduced in Katrin Bellinger, 'Master Drawings', exh. cat., London, Harari & Johns, 26 June to 11 July 1990).
6. Oxford, Mahon Collection, on loan to the Ashmolean Museum, 'Three-quarter-length Study for the Figure of David' (Mahon, 'Disegni', 1969, under nos. 139-40; Mahon & Ekserdjian, 1986, no. 26).
7. Vienna, Albertina, inv. no. 2161, 'Study of Attendants unloading Sheep from a Pack-mule (placed with the drawings of Annibale Carracci but attributed to Guercino by Dr Ann Sutherland Harris, according to a note on the mount).
8. Vienna, Albertina, inv. no. 2364, 'Study for Abigail placating David' (Mahon and Ekserdjian, 1986, see under no. 26).
Although of different types, all nine drawings are stylistically homogeneous. A characteristic of them is a fine system of pen hatching and a notably classical cast to the features of the figures.
In the Haarlem and Albertina composition studies, and in the Mahon drawing, the figure, dressed in armour and wearing a helmet, is posed with his left hand on his hip and part of his cloak wrapped around his left shoulder; his right arm is directed downwards, a gesture explained by the Haarlem and Albertina drawings in which the figure appears holding a staff. All these features appear in the present study.
As noted in the Departmental register by John Gere, A. E. Popham supposed 1943,1113.15 to be a study related to another drawing in the British Museum, Ff,2.135, which is now generally accepted as a study for a lost painting of 'Cupid restraining the enraged Mars', the date of which is unknown. As pointed out under Turner and Plazzotta 1991, cat. no. 132, the picture's appearance is preserved in the form of an engraving by Giacomo Giovannini and, furthermore, several drawings document the evolution of Guercino's ideas for the composition. The pose of the figure in the present drawing agrees in almost every respect with that of Mars in the print, and there are also notable parallels between it and the figure of Mars in the related studies. However, in the print and in all the preparatory drawings for the 'Cupid restraining the enraged Mars', Mars is shown bearded, with a sash tied diagonally across his chest. These differences encourage one to support Mahon's identification of 1943,1113.15 as a study for the ex-Bridgewater House painting.
Literature: Mahon, Il Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1591-1666): Catalogo critico dei disegni, exh. cat., Bologno, Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, 11 September -18 November 1968; second corrected edn, October 1969, under nos. 139-140; Bellinger, 'Master Drawings', exh. cat., London, Harari & Johns, 26 June to 11 July 1990; Mahon & Ekserdjian, Guercino Drawings from the Collections of Denis Mahon and the Ashmolean Museum, exh. cat., Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 29 April-22 June 1986 and London, Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, 15 October-12 November 1986.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number