Studies for a Scourging Soldier and the Head of Christ
Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte) (Italian, ca. 1510–1592)
Pastel with red chalk on laid light brown paper (formerly blue); sheet: 15 1/16 x 9 9/16 in. (38.3 x 24.3 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1999 (1999.390)
The poignant figures in this large sheet were based on the live model and served as studies for a painting of 1565–68, The Flagellation of Christ (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice). The upper portion of the drawing portrays a half-dressed man being violently scourged. His thighs and high brown boots are broadly suggested. Sketchier still, the head and shoulders of Christ are seen below in three-quarter view.
Bassano, who led a prolific workshop employing his family, was the most innovative Venetian draftsman of the later sixteenth century. He was famous for his naturalism and for his daringly direct and painterly pastel technique, which was not unlike the way he wielded his brush on canvas. This mature work, among the most monumental surviving drawings, attains an extraordinary grandeur of expression. He first outlined the general forms of the two figures with long, jagged strokes of black pastel, varying the inflections of tone, and then worked in the colors. He pressed hard on the paper to create some accents of highly saturated hue.
Pastel had not become a mainstream medium for Italian artists until the 1530s–40s, when Bassano more or less emerged as its undisputed master.