A Woman Pulling an Arrow out of a Wounded Man by Luca Giordano


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Luca Giordano

Naples 1634 – 1705

A Woman Pulling an Arrow out of a Wounded Man

Pen and brown ink, brown wash, red chalk on prepared paper.

133 x 97 mm – 5 1/4 x 3 13/16 in.

Bibliographie : Sebastiano and Pietro Scarpa, Antichi disegni dalla Collezione Ligabue, Milan, 2005, p. 74. 


A prolific Neapolitain painter and draughtsman, Luca Giordano, called Fa Presto, trained with Jusepe Ribera (1591 – 1652) before leaving for Rome, Parma and Venice. He developed a highly decorative style combining Roman and Venetian influences – Pietro da Cortona and Veronese – and, upon his return to Naples, received many religious commissions, for Monte Cassino abbey and for the churches Santa Brigida and San Gregorio Armeno for example. He worked in all the important Italian artistic centers, including Florence, where he painted a dashing ceiling in Palazzo Medici Riccardo. Circa 1687, he was invited by Charles II of Spain to work in the Escorial monastery and in the royal palaces of Buen Retiro (Madrid) and Aranjuez (Tolède).


Luca Giordano’s drawings reflect the curiosity of this clever artist who was able to adapt to every situation in order to create with efficiency and panache. The many metamorphoses of his graphic style are intriguing: straight or curved lines, angularity or sinuosity, drawing with simple lines or abundantly washed … Giordano explored many techniques, graphic styles, and handwritings, sometimes very different one from the other, which can make attributions complicated. This drawing combines lines in pen and brown ink with a red chalk under-drawing on a beige prepared paper. The pen line is rather straightforward and unembellished, and yet the artist manages to suggest volume and depth.


The subject remains a mystery to solve: a woman is pulling out an arrow from the side of a wounded recumbent man. The suggestion that it could be St. Sebastien cured by St. Irene, a subject Giordano treated many times, is contradicted by the absence of Irene’s maid and by the fact that the man is dressed whereas the wounded saint is usually represented naked. The presence of a dog in the background, swiftly sketched in red chalk, evokes the world of hunting. Hunting accidents are frequent in Diane’s stories, but this scene does not represent the more painted ones, Acteon’s and Orion’s deaths.


Condition report – The sheet is not pasted. The lower part of the sheet restored on 4 mm. A horizontal strip of paper was added on the lower part of the verso (visible on photograph). 

Negligible trace of a vertical folding on the right. Some foxing or stains on the right edge and bottom of the composition.  The ink and red chalk are in very good condition.

Framing options

Pas de cadre, Cadre Louis XVI plat Or (4cm), Cadre Louis XVI plat Noir et Or (4cm), Cadre inversé (3,3 cm) teinté ébène, Cadre Louis XVI or (3cm)