Recto: Studies of Putti in Various Poses
Verso: Study of a Male and Female Figure, Study of a Face
recto: pen and ink
verso: black chalk, pen, brown ink, black ink
8 x 10 ½ inches (20.3 x 26.7 cm)
Dr. Stefan von Licht (1880-1932), Vienna (Lugt 789b).
Suida-Manning Collection, New York.
Private Collection, USA.
This spirited sheet of studies is the work of Alessandro Casolani, one the leading painters in Siena in the late sixteenth-century. Casolani, otherwise known as Alessandro della Torre, trained in his native Siena and in Rome under Ventura Salimbeni and Cristoforo Roncalli. He was active mainly in Siena, completing commissions for various churches in the city.
This drawing includes several lively sketches of putti in various poses on the recto, while the verso displays a study of a standing man and seated woman on the left, and on the right, studies of lips and eyes. The putti have been drawn with quick, vigorous strokes of the pen. The figures on the reverse have similarly been rapidly executed. The approach to these drawings, particularly the experimentation with different positions of the putti, suggests that these are the first ideas for figures to be included in a painting. While the drawings on this sheet have no yet been associated with a painted composition, it is not hard to imagine these putti populating one of Casolani’s altarpieces or other religious works.
We are grateful to John Marciari for confirming the attribution of this drawing to Alessandro Casolani. This sheet is inscribed three times—once on the recto and twice on the verso above each group of sketches—with the words “il Vanni,” referring to Francesco Vanni, the leading painter of Siena at the time that this drawing was produced. This inscription in the same seventeenth-century hand is found on several surviving sheets from Siena, including a drawing by Vanni in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (fig. 1). Marciari has pointed out that the present drawing and others bearing this inscription were once part of a now dispersed album of drawings by seventeenth-century Sienese artists, including Casolani, Vanni, and Salimbeni. A significant number of sheets from this album, including ours, was were formerly in the collection of Dr. Stefan von Licht in Vienna, whose collector’s mark (Lugt 789b) is here found in the lower right.
 The inscription on the Met drawing has been previously interpreted as “M Vanni” and “del Vanni.” See: Exhibition of Old Master Drawings, Colnaghi, London, 19 April-6 May 1966, no. 13; and https://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/340926?searchField=All&sortBy=relevance&ft=66.93.4&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=1.