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Black chalk heightened with traces of white chalk
Support: Blue laid paper (discolored)
Sheet: 56.3 x 42.6 cm (22 3/16 x 16 3/4 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1938.388.a
The Venetian blue paper (carta azzurra) of this sheet was the preferred medium for preparatory drawings among artists in Venice at the time this drawing was made.
This drawing was completed in preparation for the most prestigious religious commission of Giovanni Battista Piazzetta’s career, the ceiling painting of the Glory of St. Dominic for the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. Both the finished painting, which depicts St. Dominic’s arrival in heaven amid a thundery vortex, and Piazzetta’s study for the angel, who carries St. Dominic on a cloud, depart from Venetian tradition. To execute this airborne subject, he likely drew from wax or clay models suspended in midair in order to study the illusionistic di sotto in su (from below to above) perspective and the play of light found on the angel’s shadowed form. He worked out the angel’s twisting pose, imbuing it with a lively sense of movement, and accentuated the drapery’s folds with heavy lines as though considering their visibility from afar. There are only slight changes in the angel’s pose between this drawing and the completed painting. As few of Piazzetta’s preparatory studies for paintings exist, Cleveland’s sheet offers rare insight to the artist’s working methods.
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