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Putto Supporting an Unidentified Object: Study for the Tomb of Maria Clementina Sobieska Stuart

Pietro Bracci, Italian, 1700 - 1773


Black and white chalks, on blue prepared laid paper

Sheet: 8 5/8 x 11 9/16 inches (21.9 x 29.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Marie Kimball Fund and the Fiske Kimball Fund, 1969

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Bracci was one of the most important sculptors working in Rome in the middle decades of the eighteenth century. His most famous commission was the central sculptural group of the Trevi Fountain. This drawing is a study for the tomb in Saint Peter's of Maria Clementina Sobieska Stuart (died 1735), niece of King John II of Poland and wife of James III (died 1766), the Old Pretender to the English throne.

Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This drawing was one of a group of twenty-six sheets by Pietro Bracci that came down by descent to Duca Pini di San Miniato (correspondence, Micheline Moisan to Ann Percy, 20 December 1985). The group was dispersed sometime in the 1960s, and significant examples are held by the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal (Kieven, Elisabeth, and John Pinto. Pietro Bracci and Eighteenth-Century Rome: Drawings for Architecture and Sculpture in the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Other Collections. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press; Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2001, pp. 174-76). There are also two sheets at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and one at Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina. The present drawing and one in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal that is identical in medium and dimensions and also shows a putto were done in 1739 as preparatory studies for the monument of Maria Clementina Sobieska Stuart, wife of James Stuart, the Old Pretender, in Saint Peter’s in Rome (see Kieven and Pinto, Pietro Bracci and Eighteenth-Century Rome: Drawings for Architecture and Sculpture in the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Other Collections, pp. 17-18, 217, no. 115, col. pl. 14, for the tomb and the Montreal drawing, which also shares its provenance with the Philadelphia sheet). The sculptural ensemble consists of a central female figure, who represents divine love, sitting on the sarcophagus and, assisted by a putto, holding up a mosaic portrait of Maria Clementina set within an oval frame, the various elements compositionally united by flowing drapery in pink marble. Below the sarcophagus, two other putti hold a crown and scepter. The present drawing shows an airborne putto supporting an unidentifiable object. Preparatory drawings for sculpture presented Bracci with a challenge essentially different from studies for paintings, for they served as guides to the realization of an image in three dimensions rather than creating the illusion of mass and volume on a two-dimensional surface. The nature of the material had also to be reckoned with, and Bracci drew the bits of drapery with an eye to their translation into marble, which carries its own color variations and striations. He has convincingly indicated not only the sheer weight of his stone angels but their eventual polished surface as well, accomplishing this technically in two ways. He built up his image by the alternate application of black and white chalks on a blue ground, so as to maximize the three-dimensionality of the subject, and he took advantage of the glossy gesso surface that underlies the blue ground to evoke the marble’s luminosity. Following the preparation of the drawings the sculptor had to prepare modelli, both to provide himself with guidelines and to reassure the patron. These were usually constructed of wood and finished with colored wax. It was inevitable that the overwhelming grandeur of great Roman seventeenth-century tomb sculpture would continue to dominate the eighteenth-century manifestations of this monumental subgenre, and, indeed, the shadow of Bernini looms large over the Sobieska tomb: “The indirect heritage of Bernini generally informs [Bracci’s] work, especially in those inventions that renew Baroque ideas, reduced to tighter compositions” (Zamboni, Silla. “L’Accademia Clementina: IV. Doni di accademici d’onore.” In Bologna 1979b, p. 303). Mimi Cazort, from Italian Master Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2004), cat. 39