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Benedetto Luti (1666-1724)

A male nude c.1700-20

RCIN 905956

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Benedetto Luti was born in Florence but moved to Rome in 1690, where he was elected to the Accademia di San Luca in 1694 and quickly rose to prominence as one of the leading painters of the early eighteenth century. His style was a rich combination of Florentine Baroque light and colour with Roman compositional modes, but his activities as an academician, dealer and collector left him relatively little time for painting. He was however a prolific draughtsman, celebrated for his heads in coloured chalks, and in his role as an academician he frequently taught in the life classes. This is probably the origin of the present sheet, an independent drawing rather than a study for a painting, perhaps drawn by Luti as an exemplar for his students, who would have been making their own drawings from the posed model on either side of the master. He did however subsequently adapt the figure for a composition of Hercules with the Lion, recorded in an etching of 1793 by the Comte de Saint-Morys after an untraced drawing by Luti. Luti's collection of drawings was renowned in its day, and reputed to contain around fifteen thousand sheets. A part of his collection was bought from his heirs in 1759 by a dealer named Kent (not to be confused with the artist and architect William Kent, who had studied under Luti in Rome some forty years earlier and died in 1748). The drawings were brought to London by Kent and sold at two auctions in December 1760 and December 1762. A sketchbook in the Albertina, compiled by Luti's pupil Bartolomeo Altomonte, contains a number of free copies of drawings in Luti's collection, and the originals of many of these copies can be identified today at Windsor. However, as the lots were not described in detail in the 1760 and 1762 sale catalogues, it is not possible to confirm that these drawings were bought for George III at one of Kent's auctions. Inscribed lower centre Benedetto Luti Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002