Study of Triton Blowing a Conch Shell (recto); Partial Study of an Arm (verso)
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Agostino Carracci
Italian, Rome, about 1600
Black and white chalk on blue paper (recto); black chalk (verso)
16 x 9 1/2 in.

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A nude triton displays his rippling, muscular figure as he turns to blow a conch shell announcing a special event. His powerful sculptural form and sense of monumentality derive from ancient Roman sculpture and Renaissance art, especially Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ignudi, while the use of black and white chalks on blue-gray paper reflects Agostino Carracci's interest in Venetian art of the 1500s.

Agostino Carracci made this drawing as a study for a triton in his fresco, Thetis Borne to the Wedding Chamber of Peleus, also known as Galatea. The Carracci brothers began work on the decoration of the Galleria Farnese in Rome, including this fresco, in 1597. For centuries, this cycle of paintings influenced artists as much as Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling.

Beginning with drawing from life and understanding anatomy, the Carracci focused on painting the human figure. Their drawings of the nude maintained monumental proportions while broadly sketching the body's essential structure; combining robust energy with soft, rhythmic contours.

The fragment of an arm on the verso of this drawing was trimmed from a study of a triton now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, proving that this sheet was once part of a larger one.