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Attributed to Francesco Vanni (1563/5-1610)

A sleeping figure c.1600

Red and white chalk on blue paper | 18.0 x 26.9 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 905242

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A drawing of a sleeping boy, lying full-length, with his head resting on his arm. The drawing comes from a dismantled album of twenty-two sheets supposedly by Federico Barocci, as stated in the early inscription. Its style is, however, not that of Barocci; it seems instead to be by his Sienese follower Francesco Vanni, who drew with the long assured contours and areas of regular parallel hatching seen here. Similar reclining figures can be found in Vanni’s paintings of the Death of St Cecilia (Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome) and Carlo Borommeo leading a plague procession (church of Monte Carmelo, Loano, Savona), for which there are figure studies comparable to the present work in the Uffizi, Berlin, and formerly in the Pope-Hennessy collection. The sheet is one of forty in the Royal Collection that bear a stamped star mark, of five, six or eight points, traditionally associated with Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666). Several of these drawings also bear an inscription in an elegant seventeenth-century hand, as seen here. Lanier’s father was a Huguenot from Rouen and his mother was Italian, probably giving him a fluency in French and Italian that equipped him to act as an agent in the acquisition of works of art on the Continent. Shortly after Charles I’s accession in 1625, Lanier was sent to Italy to buy paintings for the Royal Collection. In Venice he met Daniel Nys, the Swedish Consul in the city (though French by birth). Involved in dealings of all sorts, Nys wrote a letter of introduction to the Grand Chancellor of the Duchy of Mantua, and thus Lanier began the negotiations that led to the purchase of the spectacular Gonzaga collection for Charles I in 1627/8. During the Civil War and Interregnum, Lanier moved between Antwerp, The Hague and Paris, continuing to deal in art until he was able to return to England as an old man after the Restoration. Lanier took advantage of his European travels to form one of the first significant collections of drawings in England. The star marks found on many old master drawings have been associated with Lanier since the eighteenth century, though by then their function had been forgotten. It was surmised that one type of star was stamped on drawings that Lanier acquired on behalf of Charles I, another on those for the Earl of Arundel, though Charles I almost certainly did not actively collect drawings. Not one of the star-marked drawings now in the Royal Collection bears evidence of its presence in any later collection (such as those of Sir Peter Lely or William Gibson), and it is probable that all those drawings were acquired by Charles II, perhaps directly from the aged Lanier. Text adapted from Holbein to Hockney: Drawings from the Royal Collection