Tuesday, August 2, 2016

18th-century Italian Figure Drawings

Sebastiano Galeotti
Mercury in clouds

Earth was not, nor globes of attraction.
The will of the Immortal expanded
Or contracted his flexible senses.
Death was not, but eternal life sprung.

Donato Creti
River God
18th century
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The sound of a trumpet the heavens
Awoke, & vast clouds of blood roll'd 
Round the dim rocks of Urizen, so nam'd
That solitary one in Immensity.

Giovanni Battista Cipriani
Classical figure pouring a libation
18th century
British Museum

Shrill the trumpet; & myriads of Eternity
Muster around the bleak desarts
Now fill'd with clouds, darkness & waters
That roll'd perplex'd lab'ring, & utter'd
Words articulate bursting in thunders 
That roll'd on the tops of his mountains.

Gian Paolo Panini
Angels on a Pediment
18th century
British Museum

From the depths of dark solitude: "From
the eternal abode, in my holiness
Hidden, set apart in my stern counsels 
Reserv'd for the days of futurity,
I have sought for a joy without pain,
For a solid without fluctuation."

Francesco Bartolozzi
Figure studies
18th century
British Museum

"First I fought with the fire, consum'd
Inwards into a deep world within,
A void immense, wild, dark & deep,
Where nothing was, Nature's wide womb:
And self-balanc'd, stretch'd o'er the void,
I alone, even I! the winds merciless
Bound; but condensing in torrents
They fall and fall; strong I repell'd
The vast waves, & arose on the waters
A wide world of solid obstruction."

Francesco Bartolozzi
18th century
British Museum

"Here alone I, in books form'd of metals,
Have written the secrets of wisdom,
The secrets of dark contemplation."

Anonymous Italian artist
Ornamental figures with Griffin
18th century
British Museum

"Lo! I unfold my darkness, and on
This rock place with strong hands the Book
Of eternal brass, written in my solitude."

Giuseppe Cades
Levitation of St Joseph of Copertino
18th century
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The voice ended: they saw his pale visage
Emerge from the darkness, his hand
On the rock of eternity unclasping
The Book of brass. 

Anonymous Roman artist
Acolyte with attendant angel
18th century
British Museum

Urizen explor'd his dens,
Mountain, moor & wilderness,
With a globe of fire lighting his journey,
A fearful journey, annoy'd
By cruel enormities, forms
Of life on his forsaken mountains.

Anonymous Italian artist
late 18th century
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

And his world teem'd vast enormities,
Fright'ning, faithless, fawning
Portions of life, similitudes
Of a foot or a hand or a head
Or a heart or an eye; they swam, mischevous
Dread terrors, delighting in blood.

Placido Costanzi
Virgin and Child with Angel
18th century
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Most Urizen sicken'd to see
His Eternal creations appear
Sons & daughters of sorrow on mountains
Weeping! wailing! first Thiriel appear'd,
Astonish'd at his own existence,
Like a man from a cloud born, & Utha
From the waters emerging, laments.
Grodna rent the deep earth, howling
Amaz'd; his heavens immense cracks
Like the ground parched with heat; then Fuzon
Flam'd out, first begotten, last born.
All his eternal sons in like manner,
His daughters from green herbs & cattle,
From monsters & worms of the pit. 

Anonymous Italian artist
Study for a sculpture
18th century
British Museum

He, in darkness clos'd, viewed all his race,
And his soul sickened! he cursed
Both sons and daughters, for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment. 

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta
Profile of a youth
ca. 1715-18
British Museum

And their thirty cities divided
In form of a human heart.
No more could they rise at will
In the infinite void, but bound down
To earth by their narrowing perceptions,
They lived a period of years,
Then left a noisome body
To the jaws of devouring darkness. 

Domenico Zanetti
Fall of the Giants
18th century
wash drawing
Morgan Library, New York

 quotations are from The Book of Urizen (1794) by William Blake