The figure of Saint John the Baptist appears surprisingly infrequently in the works of both Taddeo Zuccaro and his younger brother Federico, and the present sinuously confident study can be related to only two other drawings of the saint by the brothers. The first, by Taddeo, is datable to circa 1558 and shows the saint preaching to a crowd of converts (Morgan Library; inv. 1973.26; J. Gere, Taddeo Zuccaro. His development studied in his drawings, Chicago, 1969, no. 152, pl. 165), but despite its level of finish it cannot be related to any painting. Ten years later, around 1566, Federico returned to the subject in a drawing formerly in the Ferretti Collection, which has been identified as a study for the chapel of the Villa Farnese at Caprarola (E. James Mundy, Renaissance into Baroque: Italian Master Drawings by the Zuccari 1550-1600, exhib. cat., Milwaukee, Art Museum, 1989, no. 40).
The technique and style of this drawing can be compared to studies for the decoration of the Mattei Chapel in the Church of S. Maria della Consolazione, Rome, undertaken by Taddeo between 1553 and 1556. Especially close is a study also on blue paper now in Hamburg for one of the Sybils painted above the altar (J. Gere, op. cit., no. 85, pl. 62). In both drawings, Taddeo favours a rough and vigorous penwork, and uses the brown wash and white heightening to suggest the broad masses of the drapery rather than the nicety of its folds. John Gere noted the influence of Correggio's drawings on Taddeo's studies for the Mattei chapel, an influence also noticeable in the present drawing.
We are grateful to Dr. James Mundy for confirming the attribution based on a photograph and for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. He also notes the possibility that the figure's right arm and shoulder have been reinforced.
Signature: With inscription 'Titian'
P. Huart (?) (L.2084).
T. Dimsdale (L.2426).
W. Russell (L.2648); Christie's, London, 10 December 1884, lot 431 ('Tiziano Veccelli. St. John the Baptist - pen, washed with bistre, from the Dimsdale Collection').
Unidentified collector's stamp 'W' (not in Lugt).