Federico Zuccaro (Italian, Sant'Angelo in Vado ca. 1540 - 1609 Ancona)
The Lord Creating the Sun and the Moon, ca. 1566-69
Pen and ink over chalk with wash and heightening
12 5/8 x 10 5/16 in. (32 x 26.2 cm)
Gift of Robert Lehman, 1947
This highly finished drawing is a preparatory sketch for the central scene in the vault in the chapel of the Farnese dynastic retreatat Caprarola, outside Rome. Although Zuccaro's final fresco faithfully follows the basic composition laid out in the drawing, a comparison between the sketch and fresco reveals significant changes in the artist's conception of the work.
Federico Zuccaro was engaged on the decorative campaign of the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola after the death of his brother Taddeo in 1566.1 (At this time the palace was the dynastic retreat of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese [1545-1592].) Federico created the vault design for the small circular chapel about 1566-69. Located between the Loggia of Hercules and the Room of Farnese Deeds in the southeast corner of the pentagonal palace, the circular chapel was designed by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573) in 1550. Its decorative scheme features depictions of Old and New Testament subjects. Zuccaro's fresco of The Lord Creating the Sun and the Moon is the central scene in the dome, with six other biblical narratives in circular frames below, including The Flood, The Sacrifice of Isaac, and The Creation of Eve. The walls of the chapel feature images of the apostles in illusionistic frames paired with grisailles depicting their martyrdoms, as well as other biblical histories also designed by Zuccaro.2
For his design for the central scene in the vault, Zuccaro drew upon Michelangelo's composition of God Creating the Sun and the Moon on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He did, however, make three substantive changes from the famous model.
First, he reversed Michelangelo's figures so that God's gesture of creation could be read from left to right in a conventional, narrative fashion, rather than in the direction dictated by the program of the Sistine ceiling.
Second, to achieve the illusion of a quadro riportato (framed picture), he added grazing animals and a landscape to the bottom of the scene and removed the appearance of foreshortening in the figure of the Lord. The resulting composition harmonizes with other decorations in the Farnese palace, which feature a dazzling array of narrative, historical cycles.3
Finally, perhaps to subtly convey the impression of a vault open to the sky or the opening of a cupola, Zuccaro chose a round format for his scene, rather than Michelangelo's rectangular design. This decision was evidently made late in the creative process, for chalk lines around the edges of the drawing indicate a rectangular frame. Snakes, fish, shells, and other elements of marine life, originally inked in at the lower border, are truncated by the circular border of the final design, and the sun, once depicted with a complete smiling face, is cut off (see Technical Data).Related to the Oberlin drawing is a schematic design for the entire ceiling of the chapel of the Palazzo Farnese executed by Giovanni Antinoro (active ca. 1566), an artist in the Zuccaro circle also active on the commission.4The Oberlin drawing was formerly attributed to Titian, when it was owned by the Earls of Pembroke at Wilton House.5 Collobi (1938) first identified it as Zuccaro's drawing for the fresco at Caprarola.6
Federico Zuccaro joined his elder brother and fellow artist Taddeo (1529-1566) in Rome between 1555 and 1563, and worked with him on decorative projects that included the Casino of Pius IV in the Vatican gardens and the Palazzo Farnese at Caprarola. Despite many trips to other cities and countries during the course of his career, he always returned to Rome and its environs to work on major commissions. In 1564, Federico accepted independent commissions in Venice and Florence, where he worked for the Medici family and became a member of the new Accademia del Disegno. He returned to Rome in 1565 to work with Taddeo on a number of commissions until the latter's death a year later. In 1574 Federico traveled to England, where he painted numerous portraits of aristocracy and royalty, as well as to The Netherlands, Spain, and France. In Spain from 1585 to 1588, he participated in the decorative campaign at the Escorial, the royal residence of Philip II.
Zuccaro, whose work has been associated with Counter-Reformation iconography and style, was also deeply occupied with art theory. In 1581 he was elected head of the Accademia di San Luca (the Roman academy of artists), where he lectured. He elaborated on theoretical artistic principles in the design and decoration of his own house in Rome, the Palazzo Zuccaro. His writings on art include L'Idea de' pittori, scultori ed architetti (Turin, 1607), derived from his lectures at the Roman academy.
Zuccaro, Federico. L'Idea de' pittori, scultori ed architetti. Turin, 1607.
Baglione, Giovanni. Le Vite de' pittori scultori et architetti... . Rome, 1642 (facsimile ed., 1935), pp. 121-25.
Herrmann-Fiore, Kristina. "Die Fresken Federico Zuccaris in seinem römischen Künstlerhause." Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 18 (1979), pp. 36-112.
Cheney, Liana. In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. Vol. 33. London and New York, 1996, pp. 716-21.
Sale London (Sotheby's), 5 July 1917, lot 460
Collection Robert Lehman, New York, by whom given in 1947
Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, 1961. The Renaissance Image of Man and the World. 27 October - 27 November. Cat. no. 84.
Regina, Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, 1970. Italian Drawings from North American Collections. 5 March - 3 April (also shown at Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts). Cat. no. 12.
The Saint Louis Art Museum, 1972. Italian Drawings Selected from Mid-Western Collections. 25 February - 16 April. Unnumbered cat.
Milwaukee Art Museum, 1989-90. Renaissance into Baroque: Italian Master Drawings by the Zuccari, 1550-1600. 17 November - 14 January (also shown at New York, National Academy of Design). Cat. no. 41.
Strong, S. Arthur. Reproductions in Facsimile of the Old Masters in the Collection of the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery at Wilton House. Vol. 1. London, 1900, no. 9 (as by Titian).
Collobi, Licia. "Taddeo e Federico Zuccari nel Palazzo Farnese a Caprarola." Critica d'arte (1938), pp. 3, 70ff., and pl. 46, fig. 2.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, p. 77, fig. 107.
Gere, John A., and Philip Pouncey. Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Artists Working in Rome c. 1550 to c. 1640. London, 1983, p. 185, n. 2.
Mundy, E. James. In Renaissance into Baroque: Italian Master Drawings by the Zuccari, 1550-1600. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 1989, pp. 146-47, cat. no. 41, ill. p. 36.
This drawing was executed in pen and brown ink over black charcoal or chalk, washed in borwn and grey, and heightened with white. Much of the white heightening was washed off as a result of water damage incurred sometime between 1938, when the drawing was published in its original condition,7 and1947, when it was given to Oberlin (see Provenance). The sheet was formerly laid down on two separate backing sheets; these were removed in 1969 and the drawing was mounted on Oriental tissue. Four curving cuts in the sheet reveal abandoned attempts to cut the support into a circular shape. There are also several small tears along the right and left edges of the sheet.
Watermarks of the old backing papers are 1) watermark with Crown and Star, a variant of Briquet 4832-36 and 4854; and 2) Lily, a variant of Briquet 7099 and 7100, a paper from Caprarola.8
1. On the palace, see Italo Faldi, Il Palazzo Farnese di Caprarola (Torino, 1981).
2. For illustrations of the frescoes in the chapel, see Italo Faldi, Il Palazzo Farnese di Caprarola (Torino, 1981), p. 178, ill. pp. 184-85.
3. Zuccaro thus lost Michelangelo's evocative duality, which suggests both a framed historical narrative as well as a heavenly glimpse of God in the act of creation. On Michelangelo's systems of illusion, see Johannes Wilde, "The Decoration of the Sistine Chapel," Proceedings of the British Academy 14 (1958), pp. 61-81.
4.Art market, formerly Rosenbach and British Rail Pension Fund collections; see E. James Mundy, in Renaissance into Baroque: Italian Master Drawings by the Zuccari, 1550-1600 (exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 1989), p. 146, fig. 16.
5.See S. Arthur Strong, Reproductions in Facsimile of the Old Masters in the Collection of the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery at Wilton House, vol. 1 (London, 1900), no. 9. An ink inscription on the drawing's border, below center, reads: Titian--from vol. 2nd N.15 (unidentified publicati
6. Licia Collobi, "Taddeo e Federico Zuccari nel Palazzo Farnese a Caprarola," Critica d'arte 3 (1938), p. 72.
7.A photograph of the undamaged drawing was published by Licia Collobi, "Taddeo e Federico Zuccari nel Palazzo Farnese a Caprarola," Critica d'arte 3 (1938), pl. 46, fig. 2.
8. Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), p. 77; and Charles Briquet, Les Filigranes: Dictionaire Historique des Marques du Papier, 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1923).