- Museum number
Study of seven heads; including at centre, a man wearing a turban
Brush and brown ink over black chalk
- Production date
- 1660-1668 (c.)
Height: 286 millimetres
Width: 204 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
The biographer of Spanish artists Antonio Palomino was the first to comment on Castillo's ability as a draughtsman, observing how:
'Our Castillo also had a great facility for making drawings of whatever was at hand, and thus there were countless left when he died (of which I have no small portion). Most of them were done with a pen, and some heads - particularly of old men - were done with a reed pen. For this he would look for common reed grass, or thin stalks with long internodes (those used in Córdoba by boys to make pea guns with which to shoot out the pits of lotus fruits), and cut them like thick quills. With those he liked to draw large heads with thick strokes of the pen, with great mastery and very freely'. (A. Palomino 'Lives of the Eminent Spanish Painters and Sculptors', trans. N. Ayala Mallory, Cambridge 1987, p.200).
Since Palomino, the artist's critical fortunes have confirmed him as one of the outstanding, and most prolific draughtsman of the seventeenth century in Spain. Around two hundred drawings by his hand survive, mostly in pen and ink but some in red chalk and occasionally wash. Castillo spent his entire career in Córdoba where he evidently ran a busy workshop.
This drawing depicts a central turbaned figure surrounded by six other heads. They descend in matching pairs beginning with two old men at top, two young men in the middle and two old men at the bottom. The central head was drawn on the sheet first and then the heads fitted around it as indicated by contours of the flanking figures. The heads on this sheet appear in a number of the other drawings by Castillo. A study of St Peter in the Courtauld Institute dated 1652, is one such work in which Peter's head is typologically the same as those in the British Museum drawing (Navarrete Prieto & García de la Torre 2008, no.83).
The existence of a number of sheets by Castillo in which heads of men and women are repeated from different angles and with different expressions indicates they were meant to be used as source material for his paintings. They might also have intended to be engraved forming a sort of model-book for didactic purposes (McDonald 1998). The drawings appear to have been inspired in particular by the book of prints of Frederick and Abraham Bloemaert. For the Study of Seven Heads Castillo follows the same arrangement as plate 15 of Frederick’s Tekenboek (L,83.16) published around 1650-6. Furthermore, Castillo's cross-hatching and the way in which he isolates the heads in the drawing suggests that he was emulating the engraving technique of prints, possibly to assist in their translation into print. The discovery of a Nativity print by Jacob Matham after Bloemaert signed on the verso by Castillo, proves he, like many of his contemporaries, owned northern prints. Benito Navarrete discounts the idea of their intended publication because of the lack of qualified engravers in Andalusia, but this needs to be reconsidered (Navarrete Prieto and García de la Torre 2008, p.65). There was a dearth but not an absence of printmakers in southern Spain, and such a project could have been sent further afield for engraving. However it should be admitted there is not tangible evidence that any such prints after Castillo were made.
A.E. Popham, 'Catalogue of Drawings in the Collection formed by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart., F.R.S., now in the possession of his Grandson, T. Fitzroy Phillipps Fenwick of Thirlestaine House, Cheltenham', I, London, 1935, p. 120, no. 24 (as Anonymous XVII or XVIII century); M.P. McDonald, 'A Drawing by Antonio del Castillo y Saavedra in the British Museum', 'Melbourne Art Journal', 2, 1998, pp. 15-22; M.Nancarrow, & B. Navarrete Prieto, 'Antonio del Castillo, Madrid', 2004, p.70; B. Navarrete Prieto & F. García de la Torre, 'Antonio del Castillo (1616-1668). Dibujos. Catátalogo Razonado', Santander 2008, n.º 120; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, p..145–6; M. P. McDonald, 'El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya', exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, cat.no.38.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number