Drawing, executed in pen and brown ink over black chalk, laid down on 19th-century mount, inscribed on the mount Maura Tasia and 5 W L 48, 135 × 347 mm.
The old attribution on the mount to Mauro Tesi is confirmed by similarities to a drawing published by Richard Wunder in 1965 (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1960/2.20). Both sheets are executed in the same manner in Tesi’s distinctive pen style, and are strongly reminiscent of Stefano della Bella’s ornament prints. The Michigan drawing, in fact, carried an attribution to Della Bella before Wunder associated it with etchings by Tesi in imitation of prints by Della Bella. Comparable drawings by Tesi of decorative friezes incorporating masks and satyr’s heads, garlands, and infants, are in Rome, Geneva, Sammlung Schloss Fachsenfeld, Venice, and New York; some were etched by Clemente Nicoli, others apparently by the artist himself. Mauro Tesi, who died at the age of 36, had taught himself by copying the drawings of the great Bolognese masters of the previous century, Agostino Mitelli and Angelo Michele Colonna. All kinds of ornament interested him, but soon a natural predisposition towards architectural decoration asserted itself.
Our drawing was extracted in 1990 from an album (“Drawings by Old Italian Masters. Sculpture”) assembled circa 1871 by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Baronet, of Pollok (1818-1878). The two albums contained mostly drawings commissioned by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1637) for his celebrated “Museo Cartaceo”. After Cassiano’s death, the “Museo Cartaceo” was augmented by his younger brother, Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo, then by Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who incorporated drawings inherited from his uncle, Pope Clement XI, including a hoard accumulated by the artist Carlo Maratti. This drawing most probably is a sheet introduced to the corpus by Cardinal Albani, whose collection was sold in 1762 to James Adam as agent for George III. About 1000 drawings were appropriated by the Royal Librarian, Richard Dalton (1715-1791), and came onto the market at Dalton’s deceased sale (11-19 May 1791), passing thereafter through the collections of several antiquaries, eventually into the possession of Stirling Maxwell.