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May 07, 2021

Acquisition: Morazzone, "Studies for Christ Before Caiaphas"

Morazzone, "Studies for Christ Before Caiaphas"

Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, called Morazzone
Studies for Christ Before Caiaphas, 1608/1609
black chalk heightened with white gouache on blue-gray laid paper
sheet: 26.4 × 38.5 cm (10 3/8 × 15 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Andrea Woodner

Early 17th-century Milanese painting combined the naturalism of the emerging baroque style with the extravagant stylization of mannerism. Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, called Morazzone (1573–1626), was the school’s most theatrical interpreter, determining the development of Lombard painting throughout the century. His influence is particularly apparent in the region’s famous Sacri Monti—pilgrimage sites across the foothills of the Alps with life-sized dioramas of religious narratives. Acquired as a gift of Andrea Woodner, Studies of Christ before Caiaphas (1608/1609) is a rare and important example of Morazzone’s draftsmanship.

The drawing suggests the artist’s gift for orchestrating form upon the page in the developed figure studies that do not display an obvious relationship to one another. Its handling, deep chiaroscuro, and richly textured black chalk reveal a debt to Venetian draftsmanship that was unique among the Milanese. The drawing is also significant as a preparatory study for the scene of Christ brought before the high priest Caiaphas, one of three frescoes surrounding a terracotta group in the chapel of the Flagellation at the Sacro Monte above the town of Varese. This chapel was Morazzone’s first collaboration with a sculptor to create one of these ensembles.

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