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Angels in Glory

Luca Cambiaso (aka Cangiagio) (1527–1585)

Italian, Late Renaissance
ca. 1550 - 1575
42.9 x 29.5 cm (16 7/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
brown ink and wash on laid paper

Not on view


Luca Cambiaso (also known as Cambiasi or Cangiagi) was an Italian painter and draftsman, familiarly known as Lucchetto da Genova. He was born in 1527 at Moneglia, then part of the Republic of Genoa, and was the son of the painter Giovanni Cambiasi. He spent most of his life in Genoa painting history and mythological subjects in various churches and palaces. In his work, Cambiaso assimilated the Mannerist style of Rome, where he visited several times, although he was more restrained than the Roman Mannerists in his exaggeration of the human form. In 1583 he accepted an invitation from King Philip II of Spain to complete for the Escorial a series of frescoes begun by Castello, and he executed a Paradise in the vault of the church. His extreme facility astonished the Spanish painters. It is said that Philip II, watching one day the facility with which Cambiaso painted the head of a laughing child, was surprised to witness the laugh changed, by a few paint strokes on the lips, into a weeping expression. [, accessed November 10, 2010.]

Cambiaso was well known for his drawings, many of which were imitated and copied. In his drawings, as in the Dumbarton Oaks example, he often stressed the massing of figures and a heightened sense of action and movement. In the Dumbarton Oaks drawing, the putti (or angels) desport among the clouds in a loosely organized oval. Cambiaso drew other groups of flying angels or putti (see, for example, Six Angelots Volant and Quatre Angelots Volant, Musee du Louvre, Departement des Arts Graphiques, Paris, inv. 9242 and RF 599), and he often included them in paintings of assumptions or in the sky above other compositions (such as his ca. 1570 Adoration of the Shepherds, Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna). Although the Dumbarton Oaks drawing may be an independent work, it could also be a study for a ceiling decoration. A copy of the drawing, attributed to Luca Cambiaso and titled A Ceiling Design: Putti Desporting was sold by Christie's London, South Kensington, sale 5444 (The Charles Plante Collection), June 4, 2008, lot 332.

The drawing is signed in ink in a later hand at the lower right: Luca Cangiagi. It is also inscribed on the front at the lower left: M.330, and at the center: Luca Cambiasi / 64842 / 39. On the back, the drawing is inscribed in ink at the upper right: M 330 and Luca Cambiasi fu Nato in Genova 1527, d'anni 15 maneggio in Publico I pennelli franco esperito. / ha depinta molto in Genova, è per il Papa Gregorio 13. fu Invitato da Filippo 2a a Spagna, a / Despignere il Paradiso nel Escuriale; Il famosa Guido Rheni á fatto questo Disegno in Aqua Forte. [Luca Cambiasi was born in Genoa 1527, from the age of 15 he handled paintbrushes in public in a free and accomplished manner. He painted a great deal in Genoa and for Pope Gregory XIII. He was invited by Philip II to Spain to paint the Paradise in the Escorial; the famous Guido Reni copied this drawing in aqua forte.] This last reference is to an etching made by Guido Reni from this drawing or a related drawing by Luca Cambiaso and published by Pietro Stefanoni (Petrus Stephanonius) in Rome in 1607. The print presents the drawing's subject in mirror-image reverse. At the bottom left of the print is the inscription: LVCAS CANGIASIVS INV, and in the bottom margin is inscribed: JUBILEMUS DEO SALVTARI NOSTRO. Per Illri. Domino - Petrus Stephanonius Viventinus Dacabat. Romae Anno Domini. MDCVII. (A print of this etching is in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, A003057.) An unidentified collector's monogram is in the lower left corner of the Dumbarton Oaks drawing.

J. Carder

Exhibition History
"Seldom Seen," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2014.

Acquisition History
The acquisition history of this drawing is unrecorded.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, until 1/17/1969.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.