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ยป June Drawing of the Month: Head of a child looking up, Federico Barocci (1533-1612)

June Drawing of the Month: Head of a child looking up, Federico Barocci (1533-1612)

Federico Barocci (1533-1612)
Head of a child looking up

Coloured chalks on buff-grey paper

Federico Barocci (1533-1612) was one of the great Italian painters of the 16th and early 17th centuries - contemporary with artists such as Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci. Apart from some sojourns in Rome, he spent most of his career in his native Urbino and many of his large paintings are still in their original settings in churches and chapels in that region. This might explain why his name is little known among museum goers and art lovers, but it also tells us that his altarpieces were given immense importance and could not be removed or sold to art collectors and galleries.

Drawings were a central part of an artist’s creative process, and Barocci’s proficiency as a draughtsman has led to the survival of a large body of works on paper, including many large head studies often in chalk and coloured pastel. This was an unusual technique at the time, yet the use of colour in many of Barocci’s drawings demonstrates an interest in creating lifelike tonality in his figure studies.  

This drawing of a Head of a Child looking up was probably intended as a study for an angel or putto. The tender expression of the figure, accentuated with hues of red particularly on the nose and cheeks, is typical of Barocci’s style. His use of soft lines, blended chalk and differentiated shading creates the impression of a smooth plump face, while the rapidity of the charcoal lines defining the figure’s hair creates a contrast of texture against the smoothness of the skin. Furthermore, the expression of admiration achieved by Barocci and his rendering of light and shade on the figure’s face creates the impression of a gaze onto a divine light.

To tie in with the exhibition Barocci: Brilliance and Grace (which ended at the National Gallery in May), this drawing, along with four others by the artist from the Christ Church collection, will be on display in the Picture Gallery until the end of June.

David Wilson
Curatorial Assistant

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