Traces of the Hand



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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

Drawing Media

After Salvator Rosa
Italian, 1615–1673
Head of a Warrior, 17th–18th century
Black and red chalk with white and blue highlights on wove paper
16 x 11 1/16 in, 40.64 x 28.1 cm (sheet)
Inscription: (recto) lower left in red chalk: "SRosa"
Provenance: Acquired from Joseph Fach, Frankfurt am Main, 1980.
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2007.15.66

This drawing depicts a bearded soldier wearing a helmet and armor, caught in the moment as he turns his head from the viewer to look over his right shoulder. The artist used the three-chalk technique—black, red, and white chalk—with touches of what seems to be blue chalk to capture a fleeting instant of response to something we can never see. As is typical of this use of different colored chalks, black chalk defines the head, facial features, hair and beard, and the helmet and armor; red chalk adds warmth to the skin and lips; white chalk highlights reflections in the armor and the skin around the eyes. The addition of what seems to be blue chalk in the eyes and beside the figure adds an additional element of color and life, heightening the momentary effect of the head as a whole.

The drawing is apparently signed, but Miles Chappell commented that while this study head "is clearly based on Rosa’s vocabulary and the signature clearly attempts to imitate Rosa’s manner of inscribing his works," it is probably the work of "a Late Baroque artist working in the manner of Rosa."1 Another authority, Konrad Oberhuber, suggested that it might be by an eighteenth-century French or German artist.2 Whatever the attribution, the drawing is clearly in the manner of Rosa’s chalk studies of heads, often seen from oblique angles to enhance the sense of capturing a split-second of life.3 Interestingly, this drawing apparently had a pendant, a head of a woman seen from behind (current location unknown).4 The complementary male and female heads, one from the front, the other from the rear, caught in motion and with the woman depicted in lost profile, typify Rosa’s interest in creating psychological intrigue in a moment of spontaneous action. This is also a characteristic Baroque concern for capturing momentary change that looks forward to the vivid energy of chalk study heads by such eighteenth-century masters as Tiepolo and Piazzetta.

Catherine Mitchell


1. Miles Chappell, Form, Function, and Finesse: Drawings from the Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, Catalogue of the Exhibition and Handlist of the Collection, Williamsburg, Virginia: Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William & Mary, 1983, 195

2. Letter to Frederick and Lucy Herman, 6 November 1980. Museum curatorial files.

3. Chappell, Form, Function, and Finesse, 195, refers to drawings in the Uffizi, nos. 6566 S, 6567 S, and 6568 S; illustrated in Michael Mahoney, The Drawings of Salvator Rosa, dissertation: University of London, 1965; New York, 1977, Vol. 2, nos. 31.8, 31.9, 28.9, respectively. See also Mahoney, nos. 31,1, 31.3, 31.6, 31.11.

4. Chappell, Form, Function, and Finesse, 195, illustrated 199, fig. 266B.


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