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19 of 7,991

Abraham Bloemaert

(Dutch, 1566–1651)

Studies for female saint and male head (recto) and Arm, leg, and hand studies (verso)

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Object Details

Artist

Abraham Bloemaert

Medium

Double-sided drawing: red chalk with some heightening in white (recto); red chalk with heightening in white, and some black ink (verso)

Dimensions

Window mat: 6 9/16 × 9 5/8 inches (16.7 × 24.4 cm)
Sheet: 6 3/4 × 10 inches (17.1 × 25.4 cm)
Frame: 15 3/4 × 18 5/8 inches (40 × 47.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Seymour R. Askin, Jr., Class of 1947, and Helen-Mae Askin, in honor of Frank Robinson

Object
Number

2013.048

This pairing attests to the important relationship, and important divergence, between Bloemaert’s (…)

This pairing attests to the important relationship, and important divergence, between Bloemaert’s practice of life drawing and his desire to paint in a popular artistic style. The painting “Sine Baccho et Cerere Friget Venus (Without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus Freezes)” – accession number 2018.035 – dates from early in his career, when he favored the courtly style now called Mannerism, which favored crowded compositions, and distorted, weightless figures, often nude and eroticized. The painting’s subject—“without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus freezes”—comes from a verse from a play by the Roman dramatist Terence reminding us that food and wine are the dual fuel of love. Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, supports a nude Venus and waves a handful of wheat stalks, while the wine in the cup Cupid offers comes from Bacchus, leaning on a wine barrel at lower right. The refreshment has not yet roused Venus, and so Cupid’s bow lies dormant below.

This drawing presents a varied grouping of life studies of legs, arms, and hands, including preparatory sketches for the arms Ceres and of Cupid. This proves that the highly stylized depictions of the human form in the painting nonetheless spring from carefully observed academic studies, in this case of a clothed female model.

(Undressed: The Nude in Context, 1500-1750,” co-curated by Andrew C. Weislogel and Brittany R. R. Rubin and presented at the Johnson Museum February 9-June 16, 2019)



This beautiful double-sided drawing attests to Bloemaert’s skill as both draftsman and teacher. The downturned gaze and prayerful gesture of the female saint on the recto suggest the Virgin Mary, while the verso offers a more varied grouping of studies, primarily from a female model. Overall, the work demonstrates Bloemaert’s practice of keeping such sheets for future compositions and for his students’ use.

In the Johnson Museum’s recently acquired Bloemaert painting Without Bacchus and Ceres, Venus Freezes, ca. 1591 (2018.035), the poses of Cupid’s and Ceres’s left arms in the painting correspond to the arm holding the cup and the forearm and hand below it in the drawing. Given the painting’s kinship to Bloemaert’s mannerist style of the early 1590s, a similar date for the drawing might therefore be advanced. But this connection also shows that even the effete and languid gestures dictated by contemporary style were still grounded in figure study.

The Johnson’s collection also includes a deluxe 1740 edition of Bloemaert’s drawing book. Along with the distribution of Bloemaert’s drawings throughout Europe, the book ensured that later artists, like François Boucher, adopted and modified his designs.

(“FIGURE/STUDY: Drawings from the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,” text by Andrew C. Weislogel and presented at Carlton Hobbs, LLC January 25-February 2, 2019)

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