Study of a bust of Vitellius,Charcoal, heightened with white, on blue-green paper
Drawing classical sculpture, became common practice starting in the Renaissance, as antique statues were perceived to be the embodiment of perfection and ideal beauty. In art academies, which flourished across Europe, artists were taught to admire and learn their perfect proportions and encouraged to exercise by copying them. Classical sculpture offered artists a repertory of poses and forms that could be models of inspiration for their own works.
The Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto, who never sculpted, owned many of these replicas, made in bronze, wax, and plaster. According to the biographer Carlo Ridolfi, Tintoretto spent a considerable sum on collecting casts of ancient and Renaissance marbles. Several of his graphic works attest to his practice of sketching after them. In the drawings illustrated below is an example. It is after the head of the Emperor Vitellius, a celebrated bust that in 1523 was sent from Rome to Venice by Cardinal Grimani, and was then displayed in the Ducal Palace, where artists could study and make plaster casts from it. This shows a practice that seems to have been common in Tintoretto’s work. The artist would often draw at night, in the candlelight, moving a candle around the casts in order to explore the play of light and shadow on those forms. The stark contrast of black chalk with touches of white heightening creates a strong sculptural effect in all his drawings. from: brewminate.com
Charcoal, heightened with white chalk, on blue paper faded to brown,13 1/16 x 9 13/16 inches,
1540-1580 The Morgan Library