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Von Hadeln 1926a, pl. 88; Tietze/Tietze-Conrat 1944, under no. 94; Amsterdam 1953, no. T 4; Arslan 1960, vol. 1, p. 268; Ballarin 1969, pp. 87, 88, 110, fig. 100; London 1979, p. 37 under note 41; Rearick 1980, p. 50; Aikema/Meijer 1985, no. 34, ill.; Rearick 2001, pp. 177-78
The drawing on the recto is a study for two attendant page boys bearing the doge’s train and ducal cornu in the large canvas of Pope Alexander III Meeting Doge Zianiin the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci (Hall of the Council of Ten) in the Ducal Palace, Venice (fig.). The wide, frieze-like painting had been commissioned in autumn 1591 from Francesco Bassano (1549-1592), who had previously completed a series of canvases for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the course of the extensive redecorations of the Ducal Palace after the fire of 1577. Francesco began The Meeting of Doge Ziani and Pope Alexander III, but after his suicide in 1592, his younger brother Leandro (1557-1622) took over the project. It is thought that Francesco had only completed the left-hand portion of the canvas at the time of his death.
The outlines of the study were lightly drawn in black chalk, but then the upper half reworked with a darker medium, probably a greasier, oiled chalk rather than charcoal (gessetto grasso). Particular attention has been paid to the texture of the clothing such as the quilted doublet worn by the boy in the foreground as well as to the features of the two fresh-faced page boys. They may well have been studied from the same model, possibly a young apprentice in the workshop or a family member. With his assured handling of the chalk stick and by varying the pressure on it, the artist conveys a convincing sense of three-dimensionality, indicates the direction of the fall of light and achieves great compositional clarity.
The draughtsmanship aligns well with what we know of Leandro Bassano, but Roger Rearick’s suggestion that Francesco was responsible for the lightly sketched underdrawing in black chalk and Leandro for the reworkings in the darker chalk, made after his brother’s death in order to provide clearer guidelines for executing the painting, has considerable merit.There exists another drawing related to the figure of the kneeling page in London.Whereas the Rotterdam drawing differs in a few minor details from the painting, such as the steeper fall of the cape, the London figure matches the finished painting in all details. Its poor condition, specifically the surface losses and the abraded and smudged chalk, makes it very difficult to attribute. It used to be given to Leandro but Tietze/Tietze-Conrat considered it to be by Francesco.It is worth remembering that all four sons of Jacopo Bassano (c.1510/1515-1592) were trained in the workshop in his manner of drawing and that a large workshop would always have had numerous preparatory studies, workshop copies, reused ricordi and practice sheets with a certain amount of overlap between these categories.
Two further chalk drawings relating to the right half of the composition round out the story of the painting’s creation. First published in 1977, the figure of a Man Lifting or Depositing a Bundle, now in the collection in Washington, D.C.,was associated by Rearick with a bare-backed figure at the right of the Palazzo Ducale painting and attributed to Leandro. The correspondence is far from exact and there are also similarities to the figure of a younger man leaning over a basket nearer the centre of the painting, so if it was indeed for this painting, it must date from quite early in the design process for the right-hand section. The vigorous, freely drawn lines, the way they abruptly change direction and the use of coloured chalks on blue paper is indeed a technique more typically associated with Leandro than Francesco. A study for the bearded man carrying bags, walking towards the left, like the Washington drawing also in coloured chalks on blue paper, was formerly in a private French collection. It too was attributed to Leandro.The drapery on the verso of the Rotterdam sheet appears to be for an ecclesiastical garment but has not been associated with another work by any of the Bassano.
Victoria and Albert Museum, inv. Dyce 1017-1900.
It entered the collection with an attribution to Jacopo Bassano. Russell 1924, p. 120, followed by Von Hadeln, identified it as by Leandro and connected it to the painting. Tietze/Tietze‑Conrat 1944, no. 94, pl. 147 fig. 2, as Francesco Bassano, although qualifying it as ‘a note after the painting, made only slightly later’; London 1979, p. 37, as Francesco Bassano.
National Gallery of Art, inv. 2007.111.47, formerly in the Ratjen Foundation, Vaduz. Peter Dreyer in Munich 1977-78, pp. 30-31, no. 10; Rearick 2001, p. 178, fig. 91; Washington 2011; pp. 40-41; Venice 2014-15, no. 34; Marciari 2018, p. 36 fig. 16 and no. 9, all as Leandro.
Tietze/Tietze-Conrat 1944, p. 58, no. 243, pl. 148.4, as Leandro, in the collection of Madame Patissou, Paris.