Kneeling Donor, Masaccio's Holy Trinity - Original 19th-century graphite drawing


An original 1882 graphite drawing, Kneeling Donor, Masaccio's Holy Trinity.

An accomplished copy, in graphite, of a kneeling donor, taken from Masaccio's Holy Trinity fresco in S. Maria Novella, Florence. Laid down on backing paper.

In good condition for its age. Some staining and age toning, as shown.
15.6cm x 10.9cm.

This work comes from an album of graphite and watercolour sketches, compiled by an unidentified traveller from 1879 to 1882.

The majority of works in the album are copies of drawings, paintings and sculptures in Italian collections, made during a tour of the country. Already by the late nineteenth century, the tradition of making a Grand Tour of the continent was over a hundred years old: a means for young gentlemen of means to gain some cultural polish, the route was a well-worn one by the time that our traveller made his trip to Florence and Venice.

Eighteenth-century Grand Tourists frequently made a point of buying-up many of the examples of classical statuary that they came across. By the nineteenth century, however, it was seen as being rather more refined for travellers to return with their own collections of copies of the Old Masters: evidence of their having studied and appreciated the greatest art in situ. Central to this development was Sir Joshua Reynolds, who himself made copious studies of paintings and sculpture in Italy, in sketchbooks which are now in the British Museum. Reynolds wrote about the importance of making sketches and notes, in order to develop a deeper understanding of some of the principles underlying the works of the Old Masters.

Whoever our traveller was, he was clearly very strongly influenced by Reynolds in what he did, and where he went. Many of the works in our collection are accompanied by detailed notes, describing the colours and other effects of the Old Masters that are depicted. Many of these notes also quote Reynolds, and in particular his Discourses.

While many of the sketches were clearly made at speed, and were not worked-up in any degree of detail, they nevertheless pay close attention to the composition of the works of art that they are studies of. Many of them are beautiful renderings of their originals, instantly recognisable, and getting to the heart of what they copy. They also embody an entire tradition of British travel on the continent, and engagement with the art of southern Europe.

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Product code: JH-173

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