A Male Nude Pounding
21.6 cm x 19.7 cm (8 1/2 in. x 7 3/4 in.)
Stefano Della Bella
(Florence, Italy, 1610 - 1664, Florence, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Red chalk with faint squaring in black chalk on ivory antique laid paper mounted on paper
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Very few red chalk drawings by Stefano Della Bella survive. A collector of Rembrandt’s prints and influenced by Jacques Callot, he preferred layering washes of gray or golden inks with black chalk to red chalk. Working rapidly, he would often flip the sheet and rework the drawing on the other side from the ghost image coming through the paper. At the edges of this drawing, stains confirm that the paper is glued down, preventing us from comfirming that it is a two-sided drawing.
Della Bella’s delicate lines contrast with the intensity of the moment. Barely visible in the man’s raised hand is an object with three knobs. Supporting himself with the other arm, his whole body braces before the strike. His hair flows back, his mouth rages, and muscles strain. These are attributes normally associated with Samson who “with the jaw of an ass” killed “a thousand men” (Judges 15:16), but the drawing could also be a study of a man hammering, casting back to ten-year-old Della Bella’s apprenticeship in the shop of a metalsmith.