A Bust-length portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a member of the Pucci family
Inscribed in an 18th Century hand in pen and ink, ‘Pucci/ di Baldassare Franceschini ditto il volterrano, 20 aprile 1779/z[zucchini] 3’
Red chalk and black chalk, watermark a cross encircled with initials NA beneath, with the cross bordered by a griffon and a lion and crown
217 x 150 mm. (8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in.)
Baldassare Franceschini was born the son of a sculptor, Guasparri Fransechni, in Volterra, the city from which he takes his name. Volterrano’s first teacher was Matteo Rosselli, and he painted alongside Giovanni da San Giovanni, whose style he is often confused with. However Franceschini was very influenced by the illusionistic fresco work painted by Cortona in the Palazzo Pitti. Volterrano knew of the work of Caravaggio, as a result of trips to Parma, Bologna and Venice (in 1640, 1652 and 1662 respectively). These were financed by the Grand Duke. Volterrano worked on frescoes in numerous palazzos including the Palazzi Niccolini, Capponi and della Gherardesca. Volterrano became the first baroque painter in Florence.
Single portrait drawings are rare in Volterrano’s work, however there are a number of comparative drawings, such as ‘Studies of a Young Boy (Cupid)’, 1 which was connected to the figure of Cupid in the painting of Venal Love, in the Palazzo Pitti. As in our drawing Volterrano has used red and black chalk for the main features of the face. Indeed single portrait paintings by Volterrano are rare, there are known portraits of Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’Medici in Galleria Palatina, Florence and a self-portrait in the Uffizi, which is not dissimilar to the present drawing, however the age of the self-portrait in the painting is older. Otherwise the paintings of single figures are mainly representing religious figures such as Saint John the Baptist. The attribution has been accepted by Aidan Weston-Lewis, who has seen the original drawing. Nicholas Turner has suggested the ‘z 3’ probably stands for 3 zecchini, an old Italian coin2.
The inscription on the verso is ambiguous. It could either mean the drawing illustrates a member of the famous Florentine Pucci family, or that they owned this drawing.
1.Yvonne Tan Bunzl and Kate de Rothschild, 1990, Master Drawings, number 16.
2.Written communication 9 July 2008.