500 Hundred Years of Italian Master Drawings

The Museum’s collection of more than one thousand Italian drawings, primarily from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, is renowned internationally for its quality, scope, and scholarly importance. The first major exhibition devoted to this material since the late 1960s, 500 Years of Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum showcases approximately one hundred rarely seen works from the fifteenth through the early twentieth century by over seventy artists. Organized along thematic lines, the exhibition also casts a lens on the virtuoso draftsmanship of three signature painters from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries: Luca Cambiaso, Guercino, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, all well represented at Princeton. Sections devoted to technique, artistic education, and the preparatory process demonstrate the pivotal role played by disegno, or drawing, in the Italian design process, encompassing both the mental formulation and the physical act of creation. Embedded in the training of Italian artists by the middle of the fifteenth century and subsequently academicized, disegno provided an enduring impetus for future generations to conceptualize a design and then realize that mental image on paper—the first mark-making step toward the project’s final realization on canvas or in stone. The selected works, ranging from preliminary studies to autonomous expressions, present the multivalent meanings of the term disegno, while vividly conveying the universal appeal of drawing as one of the most intimate manifestations of the creative process. 

Laura M. Giles
Heather and Paul G. Haaga Jr., Class of 1970, Curator of Prints and Drawings

1 - Technique                                     5 - Autonomy of Expression

2 - Drawing as Discipline                  6 - A Closer Look: Three Masters of Disegno

3 - Freedom of Invention                 7 - Collecting and Connoisseurship

4 - Stages of Design