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Aesculapius holding a staff encircled by a snake. Drawing by G.B. Cipriani.

  • Cipriani, Giovanni Battista, 1727-1785
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Credit: Aesculapius holding a staff encircled by a snake. Drawing by G.B. Cipriani.Wellcome Collection.Public Domain Mark

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About this work


The figure of Aesculapius is based on an antique type known as the Este type after a sculpture formerly in the Este collection in Modena and subsequently in Vienna: see Lexicon iconographicum mythologicae graecae, vol. 2, "Asklepios", nos. 320-335. However, although the Walpole family of Houghton Hall collected ancient sculpture, no statue of Aesculapius is recorded at Houghton: see Horace Walpole, Aedes walpolianae, 2 ed., London 1752, pp. 73-76, and A. Michaelis, Ancient marbles in Great Britain, Cambridge 1882, pp. 68-69, 71, 323-324. The present drawing would therefore appear to be not one of Cipriani's record drawings of particular sculptures (such as his drawings in the British Library, MS Add. 21118; cf. H. Macandrew, 'A group of Batoni drawings at Eton College, and some eighteenth-century Italian copyists of classical sculpture', Master drawings, 1978, 16: 131-150) but an animated drawing of Aesculapius based on an antique prototype

Aesculapius, bearded, stands directed to the viewer's left with his head looking to right (i.e. in contrapposto) Under his left arm is a stick encircled by a snake with its head at the bottom, at ground level. In the background a tree, bushes, and the roof of a building (or possibly a mountain)



Physical description

1 drawing : black and red chalk, with brown wash ; sheet 31.8 x 19.7 cm


Cipriani f. at Houghton. Drawn at Houghton by Cipriani for Mr Bewley


The following notes draw on information kindly supplied by Dr Jeffrey Spier, January 1997

References note

W. Schupbach, 'Aesculapius in Norfolk: a drawing by Giovanni Battista Cipriani', Friends of the Wellcome Institute newsletter, 1997, no. 12, pp. 6-7


Wellcome Library no. 38483i


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