Jacopo Chimenti, dit Jacopo da Empoli (1554 Florence - 1640 Florence)
Black chalk, white highlights, on orange-yellow prepared paper ; 34 x 22.5 cm
North America, Private Collection ; London, Thomas Williams Fine Art (Old Master Drawings, Londres, 1998, n°6, ill.) ; Geneva, Suzanne et Eric Syz collection ; Paris, Christie's, 24th March 2021.
Jacopo da Empoli lived a long and uneventful life. Born in Florence, city he never left, his maturity corresponds to the happy and (almost) uneventful reign (1587-1609) of Ferdinando I de' Medici, who, as a cardinal, acquired the Villa Medici in Rome and, as a grand duke, married his niece Marie to the French king Henry the 4th.
His work combines the spirit of the Catholic reform initiated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the style of the aesthetic reform led in Florence by the painter Santi di Tito from the 1570s : a return to a certain classicism, with great elegance – attested by his masterpiece, Susanna Preparing for the Bath (1600) in the Vienna Museum – and sometimes true piety. See how here the curve that follows the bottom of the veil, the line of the neck, the profile of the face and up to the upper right corner of the drawing seems to support the elevation of the gaze and of the thought.
This drawing is a preparatory work for the figure of the prophetess Anne in the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1604), an altarpiece in the church of Santo Stefano in Empoli, which was destroyed in the 1944 bombing of the Collegiate Museum where it was stored, but a good photography and an autographed replica of it still exist (Florence, private collection). It previously belonged to the very fine collection of 15th to 17th century Italian drawings of Suzanne and Eric Syz, founders of the eponymous bank in Geneva.
Both the support, a paper treated in an ochre or orange color, and the black pencil technique, characterized by nervous lines and strong contours, make it similar to the Archangel Gabriel, which was sold at Christie's in 1999 and entered the Metropolitan Museum in 2001. Filippo Baldinucci, in his Notizie (1681-1728), rightly referred to the artist's drawings on colored paper as "tocchi fierissimamente con profilo gagliardo", which could be translated, without the accent, as "boldly executed, with a vigorous outline".