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July 28, 2021

Acquisition: Friedrich Sustris

Friedrich Sustris, "Euterpe (Personification of Music)"

Friedrich Sustris
Euterpe (Personification of Music), 1569/1573
pen and black ink with gray wash, heightened with white gouache, on gray-green laid paper squared in black chalk
sheet: 27.3 x 20.3 cm (10 3/4 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Ruth and Jacob Kainen Memorial Acquisition Fund
2021.15.1

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired Euterpe (Personification of Music) (1569/1573), an outstanding drawing by Friedrich Sustris (c. 1540–1599). Created shortly after Sustris’s arrival in what is now modern Germany, the work exemplifies his broad stylistic knowledge and refinement. It joins two other drawings by the artist in the collection: The Baptism of Christ (probably 1580s) and An Elaborate Altar with the Resurrection of Christ and the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew (1570/1580).

Of Netherlandish origin but born in Padua, Italy, Sustris trained with his father, Lambert, a painter in Titian’s circle. He worked briefly in Rome and went on to spent four years in the painter Giorgio Vasari’s studio in Florence. His first decorative project was in the Fugger Palace (1568–1573) for a powerful banking family in Augsburg, Germany.

One of the very few studies that can be directly connected to that project, the drawing depicts Euterpe, the muse of music, holding a lyre and organ pipes. Sustris combined Italianate iconography with a technique reminiscent of Vasari and an extreme refinement of form found in works by Parmigianino. This drawing provides evidence of the original appearance and rare beauty of the fresco cycle, which was badly damaged in World War II.

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