The First Fruits of the Earth Offered to Saturn

Artist: Giorgio Vasari (Italian, Arezzo 1511–1574 Florence)

Date: 1555–56

Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of red chalk

Dimensions: 6 3/4 x 15 7/16in. (17.2 x 39.2cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1971

Accession Number: 1971.273


The drawing, surely from the hand of Vasari himself, is a study for an Allegory of Earth painted by his assistant Cristofano Gherardi in the Sala degli Elementi, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. There are a number of differences between the preparatory drawing and the finished fresco. Vasari supplied a full description of the complex symbolism of this allegorical composition that is dominated by the figure of Saturn holding up a serpent that bites its own tail. This circular symbol is said to be an Egyptian hieroglyph, symbolic of the rotundity of the heavens among other things.