This small drawing in which the Roman Mannerist Taddeo Zuccaro skillfully combined various scenes fetched the highest bid in Angoulême. Art-lovers were surely won over by its references to several famous works.
Taddeo Zuccaro (1529-1566), Sept Études de femmes, au verso une esquisse de paysage de ruines et une étude de femme (Seven Studies of Women, on the Back a Landscape Sketch of Ruins and a Study of a Woman), pen and brown ink, brown wash over a black pencil sketch, 20.3 x 21.7 cm (8 x 21.7 in).
Three front and back annotations in black pencil—“Véronèse”, “Palma Verch.” and “école vénitienne du XVIIe siècle”—each prompted a hypothesis, but this study is now attributed to Roman Mannerist painter Taddeo Zuccaro (1529-1566). Art lovers’ passionate interest propelled the precious sketch’s price from the expected €10,000/15,000 to €103,750.
Like a tribute to various masterpieces, this small drawing is a concentration of several works. Drawn in wash, the kneeling figure seen in profile strikes the same pose as the two women appearing frontally in the foreground of the ceiling fresco in the Autumn Room at the Caprarola Palace, which Zuccaro and his younger brother Federico painted around 1561-1566 to glorify the Farnese. Similarly, the two embracing women on the right recall those in the study for the Muses of Parnassus, which is in the Louvre. It has a connection to the Parnassus fresco painted at the Orsini Palace in Bracciano in 1558 and 1559. Paolo Giordano Orsini, First Duke of Bracciano, put Zuccaro in charge of this major project aiming to celebrate his 1558 marriage to Isabella de Medici.
Lastly, the landscape sketch on the back evokes the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. According to De Bayser, this is the only known landscape study from nature in Zuccaro’s works on paper.