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Genoa 1557–1629 Genoa

The Genoese Arriving in Jerusalem

The Genoese Arriving in Jerusalem

Pen and brown ink and wash, heightened with white, over traces of black chalk, on blue paper

7 3/16 x 7 ⅞ inches

183 x 200 mm


An unidentified paraph in pen and brown ink on the back of the mount

Sale:  London, Christie’s, 10 July 1962, lot 141 (as Polidoro da Caravaggio), where purchased by

Ralph Holland (1917-2012), Newcastle upon Tyne,

Thence by descent


Newcastle upon Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Old Master Drawings, 1964, cat. no. 19

Edinburgh, The Merchants’ Hall, Italian 16th Century Drawings from British Private Collections, 1969, cat. no. 24, plate 53

Newcastle upon Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Italian and Other Drawings, 1500-1800, 1974, cat. no. 42, plate XVIII

London, Courtauld Institute Galleries, Italian and Other Drawings, 1500-1800, 1975, cat. no. 30

Newcastle upon Tyne, Hatton Gallery, Italian Drawings, 1525-1770, 1982, cat. no. 31, plate XIV A


M. Newcombe, Genoese Baroque Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Binghamton, State University of New York, and elsewhere, 1972, p. 7, under cat. no. 15

G. Bora, I Disegni Lombardi e Genovesi del Cinquecento, Treviso, 1980, p. 87, under cat. no. 102

G. Bivanti, “Bernardo Castello,” in Torquato Tasso tra letteratura, musica, teatro e arti figurative, Ferrara, 1985, p. 220

C. Loisel (ed.), Gênes triomphante et la Lombardie des Borromée, exhibition catalogue, Ajaccio, Musée Fesch, 2006-07, p. 20, under cat. no. 1

Drawn circa 1599-1600

Highly finished in pen and wash on blue paper, with rich white heightening, the present drawing was first attributed by Philip Pouncey to Bernardo Castello, one of the most gifted and prolific draughtsmen active in Genoa between the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries.

The scene depicted in the drawing is inspired by Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), one of the most celebrated poems of Italian literature. First published in 1581, the poem relates a largely mythic version of the First Crusade in which Catholic knights, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, fight the Muslim warriors in the battle for Jerusalem.

The name of Bernardo Castello is firmly connected with Tasso’s literary masterpiece, since the artist supplied the 21 preparatory drawings for the prints by Agostino Carracci (1557-1602) and Giacomo Franco (1550-1620) for the first illustrated edition of the poem, printed and published in Genoa in 1590 by Girolamo Bartoli. In 1604 and in 1617 Bernardo Castello was appointed by the Genoese publisher Giuseppe Pavoni to create two new series of illustrations for the reprinting of the poem. The success of Castello’s illustrations for Jerusalem Delivered enabled him to obtain three prestigious Genoese decorative commissions, for which he was asked to reproduce the very same literary subjects in the fresco cycles of the Palazzo Imperiale di Campetto, the Villa Imperiale Scassi, and the Palazzo De Franchi.

The present drawing clearly relates to the fresco decoration of the ceiling in the Palazzo Imperiale di Campetto, the first of the three palazzi to be completed, around 1599-1600, and served as the preparatory design for the left portion of the vault’s central panel of the salone, located on the Palazzo’s piano nobile. The fresco was commissioned by the poet and aristocrat Giovanni Vincenzo Imperiale (1582-1648), who in 1604 was involved in the reprinting of Jerusalem Delivered and most likely suggested to Castello the subjects for the ceiling paintings. The vault of the salone, today unfortunately very damaged, is divided into six small rectangular panels, four ovals, and a large central panel, each depicting a significant event of the First Crusade in which the Genoese army had played a decisive role in the conquest of Jerusalem. The contribution of the Genoese army to the success of the First Crusade, however, is only briefly mentioned in the original text of Jerusalem Delivered. Therefore, to enrich the iconographic programme depicted on the salone’s vault, Giovanni Vincenzo Imperiale integrated accounts of the Crusade from two famous local historical sources, the Annali della Repubblica di Genova by Agostino Gustiniani (1537) and Delle istorie di Genova by Oberto Foglietta (1597).

The salone’s central panel represents the climax of the story. It depicts the entry into Jerusalem of the Genoese army led by admiral Guglielmo Embriaco (called Testadimaglio), who is portrayed on the horse in the center of the drawing. By his side, a group of soldiers is carrying a ladder to climb the fortified towers of the city. According to historical references, Guglielmo Embriaco was renowned for his ingenious strategic skills: he avoided the capture of his fleet of ships by ordering the building of war machines with the wood obtained from their dismantling.

The present drawing has been related to two other sheets by Bernardo Castello, one now preserved in the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (fig. X),¹ and the other at Windsor Castle.² Only the Paris sheet, however, was originally created for the fresco of Palazzo Imperiale di Campetto, since it depicts the right-hand side of the salone’s central panel and, like our drawing, was executed by the artist on a blue sheet of almost the same dimensions. The drawing at Windsor, which also depicts the Genoese army’s assault on the walls of Jerusalem, is the final design for the fresco in the center of the vault of Palazzo De Franchi. This latter painting was realized around 1610, approximately ten years after the decoration of the Palazzo Imperiale di Campetto, traditionally dated around 1599-1600, a date that can be assigned to our drawing.

  1. Inv. EBA 97; pen and brown ink and wash, heightened with white, over traces of black chalk, on blue paper, 179 x 224 mm; Loisel (ed.), op. cit., p. 20, cat. no. 1, illustrated.

  2. Inv. 906337; pen and brown ink and brown wash, with white heightening, squared for transfer, 170 x 385 mm; see A. E. Popham and J. Wilde, The Italian Drawings of the XV and XVI Centuries in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, London, 1949, p. 207, cat. no. 205, plate 151.

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