Il Palazzo Branconio dell’Aquila

In the last years of his life, Raphael designed a palace for his friend Giovanbattista Branconio dell’Aquila, a papal advisor, goldsmith, and the personal keeper to Hanno, the white elephant brought to Rome in 1514. The palace was located in the Borgo, the district between Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican.

Around 1660, the palace was demolished together with the adjoining block, named Isola del Priorato after the nearby Priory of the Knights of Malta, to create the Piazza Rusticucci. Not much remains, an engraving from not long before the demolition and this sketch by Giovanni Battista Naldini.

Portrait of Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1866

Dante Gabriel Rossetti drew this chalk portrait of his sister Christina in September 1866, when she was thirty-five years old. In that year, she published her second volume of poetry, Prince’s Progress and Other Poems. She received a proposal of marriage from a reclusive Dante scholar and former pupil of her father, Charles Bagot Cayley. To judge from a series of love poems written in Italian (Il Rosseggiar dell’ Oriente), which William found in her writing desk after her death, Rossetti loved Cayley very deeply. But she refused him after she “enquired into his creed and found he was not a Christian.” She never married.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Self-Portrait 1847

Though he was born in London, both of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s parents were at least part Italian. His father had emigrated, seven years before his birth, for political reasons. His mother was born in England to an Italian father and an English mother. Poetical blood ran in both families. His sister Christina was a poet as well.

This is his earliest self-portrait, drawn in black and white chalk on tan paper in 1847, when he was nineteen. He started writing poems at this time, “Autumn Song” is from the next year.

Portrait Sketch of Simon Vouet by Nicolas Mignard

Portrait sketch of Simon Vouet (1590-1649) by Nicolas Mignard (1606-1668), probably in black chalk, printed on October 1, 1853, in L’Artiste.

Benvenuto Cellini: Juno (1540)

Benvenuto Cellini was neither a painter nor a draughtsman—he held painting in low regard—but a few sketches for sculptures and metalwork have survived. About this Juno, we read in his autobiography:

On the day following I went to thank the King, who ordered me to make the models of twelve silver statues, which were to stand as candelabra round his table. He wanted them to represent six gods and six goddesses, and to have exactly the same height as his Majesty, which was a trifle under four cubits. […] I began, in God’s name, to work, and fashioned four little waxen models, about two-thirds of a cubit each in height. They were Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, and Vulcan.

The King is Francis I of France, the year is 1540. It seems that only the Jupiter was executed in silver, and no-one knows what became of it. This black chalk sketch of Juno is all that’s left of the candelabra.

Ciociaria brigand, c. 1850

Anonymous watercolored line drawing of a brigand from the Ciociaria, a not clearly defined region to the southeast of Rome, from the mid-19th century. This is what the father of Grazia, who reportedly stood model for August Riedel’s Judith, might have looked like.

Three architectural designs by Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau

THESE three architectural designs by Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau (1510–84), each drawn with chalk and ink on a vellum sheet of about 64×42 cm, were auctioned at Christie’s on July 4, 2006. They fetched between $55,000 and $70,000 each.

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