Il Pordenone, The Continence of Scipio

Artist | Giovanni Antionio de Sacchis, called Il Pordenone (1484–1539)
TitleThe Continence of Scipio 
Date | 1530–1535 
Medium | Black and white chalk on blue paper  
Dimensions | 196 x 250 mm 
Institution | National Galleries of Scotland 
Credit line | David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy on loan 1974  
Theme | Antiquity, Mythology and Allegory 
Museum number | RSA 923 

Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis (1484–1539), also called il Pordenone, specialised in large-scale church altarpieces and murals. At the age of 31 he visited Rome where he familiarised himself with the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. From 1527 until his death, he lived in Venice. This drawing, in pen and wash over black chalk on blue paper, was produced in this Venetian period and depicts the Roman general Scipio Africanus who captured the Spanish city of New Carthage and was offered a beautiful maiden as a victory prize. However, upon finding out she was betrothed to another man, he returned her to her spouse. This highly detailed compositional drawing falls into the category by Pordenone that has been termed disegno finito or ‘highly finished drawing/design,’ Although there is no known extant fresco by Pordenone depicting the Continence of Scipio, it would have been a suitable theme for a betrothal or wedding celebration. If this drawing was intended as a modello for a mural, the intended location would have been considerably raised from its viewer. This perspective can be inferred from the compositional viewpoint. This drawing has strong affinities with a sheet in the Uffizi, Florence depicting the Rejection of Joachim’s Offering.