Young Man in armour holding his helmet by Taddeo Zuccaro


Taddeo Zuccaro

Sant Angelo in Vado 1529 – Rome 1666

Young Man in armour holding his helmet

Red and black chalk. Watermark Lily in a double circle.

185 x 135 mm – 7 5/16 x 5 5/16 in.


Literature – J.A. Gere, “Addenda and Corrigenda”, Master Drawings, XXIII, 1995, 124-A, fig 42.

Provenance – Private collection.


The formality of the pose led John Gere to think that this study might be preparatory for a bust portrait of one of the youngest members of the Farnese family. The drawing is published in the addendum to his 1970 monograph, Taddeo Zuccaro, his development studied in his drawings (see Literature).


The age of the model is difficult to define but he seems to be in his early twenties, between 15 and 20 years old. This therefore rules out the possibility that he is one of the two youngest sons of Pier Luigi Farnese and Gerolama Orsini, Orazio Farnese, Duke of Castro (1532-1553) and Ranuccio Farnese (1530-1565). In fact, for he to be one of them, the drawing would have had to be executed at the beginning of the 1550s, a period during which Taddeo was not yet working for the Farnese family.


The possibility remains that the young man represented is Alessandro Farnese the Younger (1545-1592), the son of Ottavio Farnese (himself the second son of Pier Luigi and Gerolama Farnese). Alessandro was between 15 and 20 years old in the years 1560-1565, a period when Taddeo worked actively for the Farnese. Abundantly portrayed from a young age, the future Duke of Parma and Piacenza, fourth Duke of Castro, and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, is often represented in armour, an anticipation of his future military successes. This is indeed how he appears, aged eleven, in a painting by Girolamo Maria Bedoli, Parma embraces Alexandre Farnese (Parma, National Gallery, 1556) and, a little older, in a painting whose attribution varies between Anthonis Mor and Alonso Sanchez Coello, Alessandro Farnese in armour (Dallas, Meadows Museum, circa 1661). The National Gallery of Parma keeps a painting by Alonso Sanchez Coello where he also wears an armour. Only Sofonisba Anguissola represented him in court dress, a brocade coat lined with ermine and a feathered hat (around 1560, National Gallery of Ireland).


From a stylistic point of view, this lightly traced drawing which makes subtle use of red and black chalks is similar to a sheet kept in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (Inv. NMH 458/1863, watermark Man in ring), A man wearing a feathered hat seated at table (254 x 171 mm) although the facial expression is not as carefully studied in our drawing than in the Stockholm one.


Condition report: Very good condition. Mounted in false margins.

Framing options

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