Luca Cambiaso (1527 Moneglia - 1585 L'Escorial)
1570 - 1580
Pen, brown ink and brown wash, framing line ; inscription "lucha cambiaxio Pittore genoze" in pen and brown ink on the reverse ; 27.7 x 19.2 cm
Mortimer Brandt (collection mark on reverse) ; New York, Sotheby's, 21st January 2004 ; Edward Backer ; New York, Sotheby's, 27th January 2010.
Luca Cambiaso Drawings (New York, Finch College Museum of Art, 1967-1968) ; Old Master Drawings from a private collection (Baltimore, Museum of Art, 1986) ; Italian Renaissance Drawings (Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2011).
Jerrold B. Lanes, "Current and forthcoming exhibitions", Burlington Magazine, vol.CX, February 1968.
Comparative bibliography : Luca Cambiaso : un maestro del Cinquecento europeo (Genoa, Palazzo ducale, 2007) ; Luca Cambiaso (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins, 2010).
After Venice and Antwerp, Genoa was the leading port in Europe from 1550 to 1620. Fernand Braudel refers to this period as the "century of the Genoese". It was among the first generation of this golden age, which corresponded to the Catholic Counter-Reformation and the reconquest of souls desired by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), that the art of Luca Cambiaso flourished. In 2010, the Louvre exhibited the drawings in its possession of this artist with a very strong personality, a painter who was sometimes a little bit clumsy, but a brilliant graphic artist.
This drawing may have been copied in the studio as an exercise. Three much smaller versions are known (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi ; Leipzig, Museum für Bildende Künste ; London, Courtauld Institute). It renews the traditional, or "Raphaelesque", image of the Holy Family, and is remarkable for its realism (it could just as well be called The Family of a Craftsman), its psychological finesse (the tenderness that unites the figures on the right, and the visible fatigue of Saint Joseph), and its very safe technique.
As the catalog of the Caen exhibition writes, "Cambiaso shows here an exceptional graphic mastery, because he integrates his manner of geometrizing figures with a search for chromatic effects through the touches of washes of different densities". This style, sometimes called cubist, in fact, announces Caravaggio and the "painters of reality". The definition of forms by the use of light, and the expression of feelings through attitudes, can be found in Cambiaso's masterpiece, the Madonna by Candlelight from the Palazzo Bianco in Genoa, which leads us to date our drawing to the 1570s.
Of this drawing, Jerrold B. Lanes, editor of the Art Quarterly, wrote in 1968 that it was the most beautiful of Cambiaso's drawings preserved in America. It is both a testimony to the visual ideology of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, as well as the transition from idealism to realism ; and the proof that Cambiaso was more than an original artist, he was a precursor. Another drawing makes brilliant use of the wash and of a look of a child : A Domestic Scene, by Annibale Carracci (New York, Metropolitan Museum). It was made in the 1580s, some ten years later...