Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)

Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)

Raffaello Vanni (Siena 1595 – 1673 Siena)

Two Mendicant Friars, one holding a Crucifix

Red chalk, watermark double encircled device, 266 x 199 mm (10.5 X 7.7 inch).

- Old Florentine collection, inventory number ‘47’ (?) (pen and brown ink, upper right), previously thought to belong to Filippo Baldinucci (1624–1697)1
- Lamberto Vitali (1896–1992)


Raffaello Vanni was the son of the Sienese painter Francesco Vanni (1563–1610).2 According to an early biographer, Raffaello first studied with his father, and was apprenticed in Rome from about 1610 to both Guido Reni and Antono Carracci, the son of Agostino. Raffaello was active in Siena for most of his life, but made regular sojourns to the Papal city, where he was particularly patronised during the papacy of Alexander VII (1655–67). Raffaello’s major achievement is, indeed, the frescoing of the crossing dome and pendentives of the church for which Alexander VII felt particular affection because of family ties, S. Maria del Popolo, executed 1656–58.

Raffaello’s merits were recognised by the Accademia di San Luca in Rome around this period, where he was elected Principe in 1658. In Siena he painted frescoes in the Oratoria di San Bernardio in the Piazza San Francesco; Ventura Salimbeni and Rutilio Manetti also executed commissions for the same project. His rich Baroque colours and his glowing figures, half in sunlight, half in shadow, show the influence of Pietro da Cortona. Gallery and easel pictures by the artist are rare. He was bestowed the honour of a knighthood by the Pope, and is also called Cavaliere Vanni. Raffaello’s brother, Michelangelo Vanni (1583–1671), is known as the inventor of ‘marble mosaic painting’.

Drawings by Raffaello are very rare. His earliest known compositional sketch is from 1636, when the artist was already beyond the age of forty.3 A drawing of the Holy Family with St John the Baptist in pen and brown ink and lilac wash is preserved in the Budapest Museum.4 A close comparison to our drawing is the Study of a Cloaked Figure in the Musée Wicar, Rijssel (see last fig.).5 The influence of his father’s drawings is very much apparent.

The present drawing was previously owned by the scholar and collector Lamberto Vitali, whose collection included the ‘300 Dollar Leonardo’, which the collector bought in a sale in Milan in 1982, and which is now in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, along with other drawings from his collection.6


1. I am grateful to Nicholas Turner for this information.

2. On the artist, see the article by Angelo Negro, ‘Sulla fase precortonesca di Raffaello Vanni’, Paragone, 477, November 1989, pp. 109-21; this article published the discovery of Raffaello’s birth date, 1595, which corrected the earlier reading of 1587. See also Letizia Galli in Bernardino Mei e la pitture barocca a Siena, exh. cat. Siena (Palazzo Chigi-Saracini) 1987, pp. 102-03.

3. G. Pagliarulo and R. Spinelli, Pitture senesi del Seicento, exh. cat. Florence (Palazzo Ridolfi) and Siena (Museo Civico) 1989, p. 139.

4. A. Czére, Seventeenth century Italian drawings in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest 2004, p. 285, cat. no. 306, repr.

5. Black chalk, 319 x 255 mm; Musée Wicar, Rijssel, inv. no. 2260; Corpus Gernsheim 18266.

6. Carmen Bambach (ed.), Leonardo Da Vinci Master Draftsman, exh. cat. New York (Metropolitan Museum) 2003, pp. 91-92.

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Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
Raffaello Vanni (1595–1673)
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