A Sheet of Study with a group of putti, the head of a woman, a man in profile and insects by Pietro Testa


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Pietro Testa

Lucca, 1617- Rome, 1650

A Sheet of Study with a group of putti, the head of a woman, a man in profile and insects

Pen and brown ink.

180 x 137 mm – 7 1/16 x 5 3/8 in.

Autograph inscriptions in brown ink at the top and the bottom.

Signed lower left: Pietro Testa.

Collection Zaccaria Sagredo, inscription on the verso upper left, S.R. n° 98 (L. 2103a).


Originally from Lucca, Pietro Testa left his native Tuscany to settle around 1629 in Rome where he stayed the major part of his career.  He first specialized in drawings after the antique remains and was employed by such patrons and collectors as Cassiano dal Pozzo and Vincenzo Giustiniani. He then worked with Domenichino and Pietro da Cortona and was influenced by Nicolas Poussin and François Duquesnoy. Between 1638 and 1644, he executed a group of detailed prints on the theme of seasons, which testifies of his interest for Platonic philosophy.  Although widely acknowledged for his qualities as a painter and an engraver, he has not met the success he expected as a painter.


His biographer, Filippo Baldinucci, presents him as « one of the most excellent and indefatigable draughtsmen of our time »[1]. Pietro Testa favors the use of pen and brown ink to set up his general compositions with strong and quick strokes.


This sheet of study bears inscriptions, difficult to read, written by the artist himself as demonstrated by their comparison with autograph inscriptions on a drawing representing Midas and the letter pairing with it ( Windsor, Royal collection Trust, RCIN 905932) or on Two Angels, one of them holding a cherub (Paris, Louvre Museum, inv. 1895.bis).


On the verso, the brown ink inscription S. R. n° 98 indicates that this drawing belonged to the Venetian collector Zaccaria Sagredo (1653-1729) who had certainly inserted it in one of his albums of Roman drawings, S. R. meaning Scuola Romana.

[1] Uno de’ più eccellenti e più infaticabili disegnatori che avesse mai l’età nostra fu Pietro Testa pittore e intagliatore… :  Filippo Baldinucci, Comminciamento e progresso dell’arte dell’intagliare in rame colle vite di molti de’ più eccellenti maestri della stessa professione, Florence, 1667, reprint Milano, 1808, p. 201.