Agostino Masucci (Rome 1690 – 1768 Rome)
Compositional Studies for the Virgin and Child and the Death of the Virgin
Pen and brown ink, watermark shield with kneeling figure holding a cross, 377 x 264 mm (14.8 x 10.4 inch)
Inscribed 'Maratti' (pencil, verso)
Born in Rome, Masucci initially apprenticed with Andrea Procaccino, and then entered the studio of Carlo Maratta. He joined the Accademia di San Luca in 1724, and from 1736 to 1738, he was director or Principe. Masucci worked for the royal House of Savoy, and also obtained commissions from John V of Portugal due to his friendship with Filippo Juvarra and Luigi Vanvitelli. For example, for the latter he painted the main altarpiece of the Cathedral of Évora.
Masucci also made the models for the three main mosaic panels in the Chapel of St. John the Baptist, designed by Luigi Vanvitelli (along with Nicola Salvi) for King John V of Portugal. It was built in Rome starting in 1742, disassembed in 1747, and shipped to Lisbon, where it was reassembled in the Church of St. Roch (Igreja de São Roque). It was completed in 1750, although the mosaics in it were not finished until 1752. Built of many precious marbles and other costly stones, as well as gilt bronze, it was held to be the most expensive chapel in Europe up to that time.
The present spirited sheet has compositional ideas for the Virgin and Child and the Death of the Virgin, and represents a fascinating insight into the mind of the artist at work. Similar sheets by Masucci showing comparable repetition of poses for specific figures, often vigorous heavy strokes and strong hatching in both plain and zigzag lines, and the idea of arranging the entire composition (framed in pen) in the middle of a sheet of studies is to be found in a number of other Masucci drawings: the Studies of a Seated Woman, a Child and an Angel, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; various studies for St Simon Stock receiving the Scapula from the Virgin; Studies for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Muzeum; Studies for Male Saints and a Prophet (Coll. Ralph Holland).
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