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A Roman academy of artists. Etching after Pier-Francesco Alberti, 16--.

Alberti, Pietro Francesco, 1584-1638.
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Credit: A Roman academy of artists. Etching after Pier-Francesco Alberti, 16--. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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This scene of an artist's academy by P. Alberti, specifically that of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome at the turn of the seventeenth century, is concerned with the education of the young artist, an object of early art academies. Several boys and youths, under the tutelage of masters, are engaged in studies that would have been taught within the academy: geometry, perspective and anatomy - the latter depicted here in the drawing of an articulated skeleton set up at the centre of the room and through an anatomical dissection. Next to the door through which a boy enters bearing a letter, a youth makes drawn studies from a cast of a leg while two others look on. There are several more casts and sculptural fragments arranged across the ledge and hung on the far wall, along with pictures of a landscape, a portrait and a crucifixion. In the left foreground, another boy offers his sheet of drawings of an eye, a standard early drawing exercise, to a master for correction. The Accademia di San Luca in Rome was founded in 1593 with the artist Federico Zuccaro (c.1540-1609) as its first president. Pierfrancesco Alberti's father, Durante, later also held in the post of president in 1598. Although there is no mention of the study of anatomy in the academy's statutes of 1593 and 1596, it is included in those of 1607: "The studies of the academy will be of design, painting, anatomy, sculpture, perspective, and of every other thing relating to the profession." (Pevsner 1940, p. 63, n. 1.) The original print is usually dated to after 1600, by which time Zuccaro had come into the possession of the painting of the 'Crucified bad thief' that appears hanging on the wall directly above the dissection scene. This is one of two fragments, now in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court, of Perino del Vaga's 'Deposition' originally in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Not long after it was painted, the figures of the crucified thieves in Perino's Deposition were praised for the accurate depiction of the appearance of the nerves and muscles bearing the weight of the body in crucifixion. The Wellcome Library impression bears a dedication to Cardinal Jacopo Sannesio of Pisa and may be dated to between 1604 when he was elevated to the cardinalship and 1621, the year of his death



Physical description

1 print : etching ; image 41.3 x 52 cm


Bonarum artium fautori academia Romanae studia

Publications note

N. Pevsner, Academies of art, past and present, Cambridge 1940, pp. 55-66
J. Shearman, 'An episode in the history of conservation: the fragments of Perino's altarpiece from S. Maria sopra Minerva,' in Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Ugo Procacci, ii, Milan 1977, pp. 356-364
G. Wolf-Heidegger & A. M. Cetto, Die Anatomische Sektion in bildlicher Darstellung, New York and Basel 1967, no. 75, pp. 172-173
Adam Bartsch, Le peintre graveur, Leipzig 1854-1870, repr. Würzburg 1920-22, vol. 17, p. 176, no. 1
G. Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, Florence 1568, ed. G. Milanesi, 8 vols, Florence 1878-1885, repr. Florence 1906 and 1981, v, p. 600


Wellcome Library no. 25885i

Lettering note

Lettering continues: a c. d.d. Iacobo Sannesio s. r. e. Cardinali ampliss.o

Reproduction note

The original etching was printed in Rome bearing with the title "Academia d'pitorj", or Academy of painters', lettered on the ledge that supports various casts. Alberti's signature, as designer and maker, appeared on the stool on which the left foot of the youth drawing a skeleton rests. The lettering, in both cases, is not present in this example



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