- Museum number
Studies of four caricature heads; with two below in profile to left with large noses and chins
Pen and brown ink, with grey-brown wash
Turner and Plazzotta 1991
In the top left corner is the bust of a man in profile to the right wearing a fur-trimmed hat and with stubble on his chin and neck; in the top right corner is the bust of a man in profile to the left with a prominent forehead and a sparse beard and moustache; at the bottom of the sheet is a pair of heads in profile to the left, the one on the left with an extremely flat nose and the one on the right, wearing a cap, with a prominent beak-like nose.
- Production date
Height: 264 millimetres
Width: 195 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Turner and Plazzotta 1991
The two heads represented in the upper half of this sheet are copied from known caricature drawings by Guercino, that on the left being after a drawing in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle (Mahon & Turner, 1989, no. 296) and that on the right being after one in the Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton (inv. no. 48-1300; Gibbons, 1977, no. 286). The source, if any, of the pair of heads in pen and wash in the bottom of the sheet is untraced, but it is likely that this pair was also after an original drawing by Guercino.
Mehus was born in Oudenard in Flanders. As early as 1645, when he was only 15 years old, he seems to have arrived in Italy, where he was trained in Florence by Pietro da Cortona, who was then active in the decoration of the Palazzo Pitti. Mehus then travelled extensively in Italy, visiting, among other centres, Genoa, Milan, Rome and Venice, and returning to Florence, where he was employed by the Medici and members of their court. It is even possible that the Medici, who were avid collectors, may have sent Mehus to the Casa Gennari to purchase drawings by Guercino. This seems to be one of the earliest documented cases of an independent artist copying drawings by the master.
Another drawing attributed to Guercino, but undoubtedly by Mehus, probably after a lost study by the master, was recently on the New York art market (sale, Sotheby's, 8 January 1991, lot 200). The subject is Neptune, perhaps with Amphitrite; the drawing is executed in pen and wash and measures 284 x 200mm. As in 1948,0410.330, Mehus's monogram appears in the bottom left corner. An inscription in ink in the bottom right corner reads "Livio Meus", but this is not in the same hand as the similarly located inscription on 1948,0410.330.
Literature: Mahon and Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Cambridge, 1989, under no. 296, fig. 30; Gibbons, Catalogue of Italian Drawings in the Art Museum, Princeton University, 2 vols., Princeton, New Jersey, 1977.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1974 July-Dec, BM, Portrait Drawings, no.230
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
Donato Esposito kindly supplied details of the 1948 sale.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number