Giuseppe Zocchi (Fiesole 1716/17 – 1767 Florence)
Apollo Entrusting the Child Asclepius to the Centaur Chiron
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, blue wash, brown ink framing lines, 282 x 147 mm (11.1 x 5.8 inch)
- Dr Arthur Feldmann (1877 – 1941), Brno, Czechoslovakia
- Looted by the Gestapo on 15 March 1939
- Deposited at the Moravian Provincial Museum, Brno in 1941 (inv. no. B3263)
- Transferred to the Moravská Galerie, Brno in 1962 (inv. no. B3263, with associated stamp on the verso)
- Restituted to the heirs of Arthur Feldmann in 2003
- Private collection, Tel Aviv
The son of a sand-digger from Fiesole, Zocchi was apprenticed to that important figure of the Florentine Baroque, Ranieri del Pace, as recorded in the short biography of the artist written by Francesco Maria Niccolà Gabburri. Zocchi very probably studied perspective, which he enriched with trips to Rome, Bologna and to the North of Italy. He was awarded the prize for young students in the painting class at the Accademia in 1737, and in 1741 was admitted to the first year.
Between 1739 and 1741 he must also have travelled to Venice, where he was Joseph Wagner’s student and where he learned the art of engraving. It must be emphasised that although Zocchi is primarily known in the modern age as a draughtsman and view painter, he was in his own time pre-eminently a figure painter, even in his architectural and landscape works. Proof of this lies in Gabburri's own words, when he mentions how Zocchi would pass from landscape painting “after having painted figures in oil, and architecture a fresco and in tempera”.
In the early 1740s, Zocchi was the guest of the Marchese Gerini, “employed in painting in oils various views of the city of Florence, inserting in them an infinite number of well-placed and perfectly drawn figures in the style of the celebrated Canaletto, though perhaps even softer than those in their colours”. From 1750 onward, Zocchi worked with the Galleria dei lavori di pietre dure, where he was actually salaried as the official engraver to the workshop from 1754 until his death, supplying drawings and models, mostly for the workshop's principal commissioner, the Emperor Francis Stephen of Habsburg Lorraine.
Drawings by Zocchi are very rare. In the present attractive sheet, which is representative for the mythological scenes for which Zocchi was most famous during his own lifetime, the artist has depicted the moment when the sun god Apollo entrusts his infant son Asclepius (later god of healing) to the wise centaur Chiron. The old centaur had undertaken the education of Achilles, Actaeon, Jason and Patroclus (among other heroes), and taught Asclepius the arts of healing and medicine. The child’s mother Coronis lies in the background, pierced by an arrow, punished by Apollo for her wanting to marry a mortal. The crow that informed Apollo of this news is seen flying away at the top right – its colour had been changed from white to black by the sun god as punishment for bringing him this information.
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