The J. Paul Getty Museum

Four Studies of a Male Figure

Object Details


Four Studies of a Male Figure


Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720 - 1778)






Pen and brown ink and brown wash, traces of black chalk

Object Number:



25 × 17.3 cm (9 13/16 × 6 13/16 in.)

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Object Description

Spiraling across the page, four figures twist and bend in Giovanni Battista Piranesi's animated study of the male figure. Reaching out and touching one another, the figures connect and draw the viewer's eye upwards. Unlike an academic study of the static male figure, however, this is a study of movement. The drawing illustrates how Piranesi worked out ideas about form and posture. In some ways, the lively figures are unrealistic. For example, Piranesi put little effort into describing their hands and feet, which seem to end abruptly or break off altogether. The jagged parallel shading in the body adds energy but indicates his lack of concern for muscular detail. The drawing may have formed part of a stock selection in Piranesi's workshop, from which he could later borrow images. He was known to enliven many of his compositions with human figures, although these particular figures have not been specifically identified with that purpose.


E. Calando, French,

- 1999

Alfred Normand, French, 1910 - 1993 [sold, Christie's London, July 6, 1999, lot 124, to the J. Paul Getty Museum]

Drawing Italy in the Age of the Grand Tour (February 5 to May 12, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 5 to May 12, 2002
Mise-en-Page: The Art of Composing on Paper (December 17, 2002 to March 9, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 17, 2002 to March 9, 2003
Ten Years of Drawings: What, How, and Why (January 29 to May 4, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 29 to May 4, 2008

Christie's, London. Old Master Drawings. July 6, 1999, pp. 116-177, lot 124, ill.

Hendrix, Lee. "Shaping the Getty's Collection of Drawings." Master Drawings 38, no.3 (Autumn 2000), p. 354, fig.2.