The Vision of Saint William of Aquitaine.
Giovanni Angelo Canini (Italian, Rome 1615–1666 Rome)
Brush and brown wash, highlighted with white gouache, over black chalk, on brown-washed paper
sheet: 18 11/16 x 13 9/16 in. (47.5 x 34.5 cm)
Anonymous Gift, 2006
Not on view
This monumental and spirited composition sketch of stark chiaroscuro contrasts portrays the kneeling, praying figure of William, Duke of Aquitaine, at lower right before a rocky landscape, as the saint is about to be led by one of the angels to the desolate valley of the Gellone, where he would found the Benedictine monastery of Saint Guilhem-du-Desert (some of which stone-remains are today in the Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art). The drawing shows the elements of the story of Saint William as told in the twelfth-century biography, the Vita Sancti Wilhelmi.
The sheet may be dated in the late 1650s, based on comparison to the composition of ‘Christ's Charge to Peter’ (San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Rome), dated 1659, and based on the more significant evidence of its distinctive drawing technique. The brush drawing technique with brown wash and strong thick white highlights is exactly that of a sheet in the Musée des Beaux-Arts (inv. C.52.1), Rennes, for the fresco of the ‘Sacrifice of Abraham’ (Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome) of 1656-57, and that of the extant drawings for the Conversion of Saint Paul (Louvre inv. 9617, Paris) also at the Quirinal, and of these same years.
Canini was a Roman pupil of Domenichino and a master of the High Baroque in his own right. The attribution to Canini of the Steiner drawing is due to Nicholas Turner, expert of this artist's drawings, before it was published by Alfred Moir (Old Master Drawings of John and Alice Steiner, exh. cat. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1986, pp. 40-41, no. 12, entry by Carmen Roxanne Robbin).
(Carmen C. Bambach, 2006)
Dr. Ludwig Pollak (Czech, Prague 1868–1943 Rome)(stamp Lugt Supp. 788b); John and Alice F. Steiner (American, Larchmont, New York); Steiner Family Collection by descent