Artibus et Historiae no. 70 (XXXV)

2014, ISSN 0391-9064

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CATHERINE WHISTLER - The Collector’s Eye: Viewing Veronese’s Chiaroscuro Drawings in Late Sixteenth-Century Venice (pp. 233–246)

Modern scholarship has assumed that Veronese’s own words and ideas are recorded in a series of inscriptions on the versos of some elaborate chiaroscuro drawings. These autonomous drawings include a group of religious allegories that were originally at least six in number, some of which were admired by Carlo Ridolfi when in the Muselli collection in Verona. Although Ridolfi apparently recorded the inscriptions on three of the Muselli drawings, there are significant differences between his account and the actual inscriptions. A number of secular allegories also bear inscriptions on the versos in the same handwriting. This article argues that these inscriptions were written by a patrician collector who may have been a patron of Veronese, and who assembled a book of drawings that would give delight to lovers of ‘virtù’. His free-flowing reflections recorded in the inscriptions were stimulated by close scrutiny of the drawings, but were based on his visual memory of these and other sources; they were not intended as accounts of the iconography of the drawings. His thoughtful comments reveal aspects such as his theological interests and his moral sense of the responsibilities of noblemen. Although the collector’s precise identity cannot presently be established, I suggest that his inscriptions provide insights into the conversations of virtuosi as they looked at drawings and other works of art in the intimate sociability of the Venetian studio or collection.

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