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Study for an Overdoor Decoration in the Sala Regia of the Vatican

Accession Number
1966/1.93

Title
Study for an Overdoor Decoration in the Sala Regia of the Vatican

Artist(s)
Taddeo Zuccaro

Object Creation Date
1564

Medium & Support
pen and brown ink with brown wash on buff paper

Dimensions
9 1/2 in. x 16 1/4 in. ( 24.1 cm x 41.3 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
This drawing is a preliminary study carried out by a student of Taddeo Zuccaro for a fresco decoration in the Sala Regia of the Vatican. It shows two allegorical figures placed symmetrically on the raking cornices of the south doorway. Both strike languourous, reclining poses and wear sorrowful expressions. The elephant helmet worn by the left figure identifies her as the personification of Africa. The subjugation of this continent by Emperor Charles V in his victory over Tunis, which marked the triumph of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks, is celebrated in the adjacent fresco in the Sala Regia.
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Studio of Taddeo Zuccaro
Italy, 1529–1566
Study for an Overdoor Decoration in the Sala Regia of the Vatican
1564
Pen, brown ink, and wash on buff paper
Museum purchase, 1966/1.93
This striking pair of large drawings represents the work of Taddeo and Federico Zuccaro, two of the most influential Italian artists during the second half of the sixteenth century. Sons of a painter from a small town near Urbino, they built international reputations through their work on significant commissions in Rome and elsewhere. Both drawings are fine examples of preparatory studies of architectural decorations undertaken by the brothers and provide valuable glimpses into their artistic processes.
Executed by a talented artist in Taddeo’s workshop, this is a detailed study for the fresco Taddeo painted above a doorway in the Sala Regia in the Vatican. Built in the mid-sixteenth century as an antechamber connecting the Sistine and Pauline Chapels, the Sala Regia also functioned as a papal throne room, where the pontiff received monarchs and ambassadors. Taddeo’s design focuses on two reclinging allegorical female figures. Their slumped postures and sorrowful expressions indicate their subjugation to Christian and papal power; the elephant-shaped helmet of the figure on the left, for instance, identifies her as a personification of Africa and links her to the nearby fresco of Emperor Charles V conquering the city of Tunis.
(6/28/10)

Subject matter
An artist working in the studio of Taddeo Zuccaro produced this carefully rendered preparatory study of two allegorical female figures for the wall above a doorway in the Sala Regia in the Vatican. Built in the mid-sixteenth century as an antechamber connecting the Sistine and Pauline Chapels, the Sala Regia functioned as a papal throne room, where the pontiff received monarchs and ambassadors. In 1564 Taddeo joined the artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari in painting frescoes on the walls of the splendid chamber. The portion of the work represented in the drawing focuses on two figures reclining upon the triangular pediment over a door. Their slumped postures and sorrowful expressions indicate their subjugation to Christian and papal power. The elephant-shaped headpiece of the figure on the left identifies her as a personification of Africa and links her to the adjacent fresco in the chamber, which depicts the conquest of Tunis by Emperor Charles V in 1535.

Physical Description
This drawing depicts two addorsed female figures reclining on a triangular slope. The women are partly clothed, and the one on the left wears an elephant-shaped headpiece. Between their shoulders appears a blank escutcheon held by two putti. Nude men in the background strain to hold back piles of objects that include shields and spears.

Primary Object Classification
Drawing

Primary Object Type
study

Rights
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Keywords
allegory (artistic device)
drawing (image-making)
preparatory drawings
women (female humans)

2 Related Resources

Early Modern Interior Design
(Part of: Early Modern European Architecture and Interior Design)

& Author Notes

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