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Rome 1684–1764 Rome

A Man on Crutches

Black and white chalk, on blue paper 

Irregular shape, 16 ¼ x 9 ⅛ inches 409 x 232 mm


John, Lord Northwick (1770-1859), Northwick Park, by inheritance to

Capt. E.G. Spencer-Churchill

Sale: London, Sotheby’s, 1 November 1920, lot 47 (as Ludovico Carracci), 25s. to

A. P. Oppé (1878-1957), London

Thence by descent


London, Royal Academy, Seventeenth Century, 1938, cat. no. 384 (as Ludovico Carracci)

London, Wildenstein Gallery, 17th Century Artists working in Rome, 1955, cat. no. 22, illustrated

Bologna, Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, Mostra dei Carracci, 1956, cat. no. 106 (as Annibale Carracci)

London, Royal Academy, The Paul Oppé Collection, 1958, cat. no. 375 (as Annibale Carracci)

Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada, Exhibition of Works from the Paul Oppé Collection, 1961, cat. no. 114 (as Annibale Carracci)


D. Posner, Annibale Carracci, London, 1971, p. 37 (as Annibale Carracci)

This vibrant sheet, added only recently to the corpus of the Roman settecento artist Marco Benefial, is a study for the figure of a man on crutches at the far right of his Saint Lawrence Healing the Blind and the Lame (fig. 1), in Viterbo Cathedral. The painting was part of a cycle dedicated to the Lives of Saints Lawrence, Stephen, Rose and John the Baptist, commissioned from Benefial by the Bishop of Viterbo, Adriano Sermattei, in the first half of the 1720s. While most of the Cathedral’s interior decoration was destroyed in an air raid in 1944, the painting related to our drawing is still in situ. Oil bozzetti for all the canvases in the cycle, both extant and lost, also survive and are preserved in the collection of the Cassa di Risparmio at Viterbo.

A compositional study in black and white chalk for the scene of Saint Lawrence Healing the Blind and the Lameis in the Albertina, Vienna, and was probably the finished drawing used for the final canvas.¹  Both this drawing and the bozzetto in Viterbo show the correspondence of the figure in our sheet to the man on crutches seen from behind in the painting. Here, Benefial skillfully employed white and black chalk to articulate the play of light and shade on the muscular figure. 

The Oppé sheet is one of only two known full-scale figure studies connected to the Viterbo Cathedral cycle, the other one is a study of a nude, taken from life, in Berlin, relating to the figure of the saint in SaintLawrence Giving Communion.² Looser studies in red chalk for the other canvases in the cycle, probably belonging to an earlier stage in the conception of the compositions, are also at Berlin.³ Benefial’s consistent use of chalk for his figure studies is indicative of his formation in the Roman-Bolognese tradition, having trained in the workshop of Bonaventura Lamberti (1652–1721), pupil of the Bolognese painter Carlo Cignani (1628–1719). Indeed, while in the Northwick Collection, this vigorous drawing was thought to be by the hand of Ludovico Carracci. Later, it was ascribed to Annibale by Heinrich Bodmer, supported by Donald Posner and Denis Mahon, before its correct attribution to Benefial was made by Cristiana Romalli.


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