- Museum number
Cincinnatus renouncing the pastoral life (?), formerly in an album; with two figures at left and a group at r
- Production date
Height: 274 millimetres
Width: 207 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- See also Curator's comment in 1988,1105.91(1).
Lit.: N. Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, I, no. 279
Harris rightly connected the recto study with the fresco of 'Cincinnatus Called from the Plough', one of the scenes in the ceiling decoration of the Gallery of the Villa Sacchetti (now Chigi) at Castelfusano, outside Rome (Briganti, 1962 and 1982, fig. 84; Merz, 1991, fig. 228, as Camassei). The scheme was carried out in 1628-9 to the general design of Pietro da Cortona (q.v.), who executed some parts of the decoration himself, but delegated significant portions to assistants, including Sacchi and Andrea Camassei (q.v.).
Cincinnatus, a hero of the old Roman Republic, typified the virtues of frugality, integrity and selfless devotion to the state. He lived a simple life cultivating the land on his farm until 458 BC, when he was appointed dictator at Rome in order to rescue a consular army that was surrounded by the Aequi on Mount Algidus. In the British Museum drawing, Cincinnatus, the central figure, holding a staff, long-handled spade or possibly a crook and accompanied by a dog, appears to take his leave from the group of figures on the right, possibly intended for his family. The two men on the left, perhaps representatives of the Republic, one of whom points to the left with his left hand, seem to be indicating an object held by one of them, possibly either the 'fasces' or the cloak that the two men on the left of the Castelfusano fresco present to the Roman hero.
The fresco composition differs markedly from the British Museum drawing in being horizontal in format and in having the figures, also posed in a frieze-like arrangement, occupying most of the area of the picture space. Moreover, the actions of the participants in the two works do not correspond: in the painting, Cincinnatus drives an ox-plough, while the two Republican officials on the left conspicuously present the hero with the 'fasces' and a cloak. As Vitzthum argued, the final painted interpretation of the composition must have been formulated by Cortona himself, since his two very sketchy and abbreviated, but quite closely corresponding related studies are to be found in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York (inv. nos 1938.88.6572 and 6574; Vitzthum, 1968, p. 362 and fig. 55; Merz, 1991, p. 175 and figs. 229-30), though Vitzthum seems to have gone too far in dismissing any connection whatsoever between the Castelfusano decoration and the British Museum drawing. The similarity between the group of figures on the right of the British Museum drawing and those on the left of Sacchi's 'Sacrifice to Pan' and 'Romulus amongst the Shepherds', respectively, both also on the same ceiling, surely indicates that the works were conceived by the same artist at the same time.
An explanation for the existence of the British Museum drawing could therefore be that Sacchi was arriving at his own solution to the design of the 'Cincinnatus' fresco at an early stage in the working out of the general scheme for the ceiling decoration, but he had to abandon work when Cortona, the controller of operations, came up with an idea of his own. The indifferent quality of the 'Cincinnatus' fresco itself does not help resolve the problem, though it does indicate that Cortona was not its executant. Previously, this was widely considered to be Sacchi, though Merz has recently suggested that it was Camassei who was closely following Cortona's guidelines (1991, pp. 174-5)- Sacchi's authorship of the fresco should perhaps be reconsidered.
Literature: Harris, 1965, pp.42-3; Harris and Schaar, 1967, p. 26; Vitzthum, 1968, p. 362; Harris, 1977(a), p. 54, under no. 13; Merz, 1991, pp. 174-5, n. 57.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- From an album of chiefly 17th-century Italian drawings, with a 19th-century binding inscribed: "CHALKS"; on the back fly-leaf: "Broke Hall". The entire album was purchased using £240 donated to the BM by Sotheby's. Some drawings were mounted at the time of acquisition by the Museum (1963,1109.29-31, 1963,1109.26-27, 1963,1109.24-25); the remainder was registered in 1988 (see 1988,1105.91 and sub-numbers).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number