120. [Italian school]

Attributed to ROMANELLI, Giovanni Francesco

Emperor Nero kicking his wife Poppaea.

C. 1630-1660

Drawing, pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk, traces of graphite, 40,3 x 28,5 cm, underlaid, unsigned (prick holes in upper corners, dampstains at lower edge, several lacunes with loss of paper).

Glued on cardb. support.

This scene is taken from Suetonius (Life of Nero 35.3) who relates that while Poppaea was awaiting the birth of her second child in the summer of 65, she quarreled fiercely with Nero over his spending too much time at the races. In a fit of rage, Nero kicked her in the abdomen, causing her death. This gruesome scene from Roman history is rarely depicted in art. One of the few artists who tackled the subject was Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669). The present drawing copies many of the elements also present in da Cortona's composition such as the two chambermaids in the background and the dagger in Nero's hand. In style the sheet comes very close to that of Giovanni Romanelli (1610-1662), who worked in da Cortona's workshop untill 1630. In particular, the rendering of draperies, the locks of curly hair and the treatment of Nero's left foot are elements which make attribution to Romanelli very plausible. Comparable drawings are "The Banquet of Dido and Aeneas" and "Juno asking Jupiter for Custody of Io" in the British Museum (inv. Ff,3.195 and Ff,3.196).
Ref. N. Turner, "Roman Baroque Drawings, 1620-1700", London 1980, nos. 21, 273.

€ 600 / 700

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