SIMONE PIGNONI (Florence 1611 – 1698 Florence)

Simone Pignoni

Simone Pignoni (Florence 1611 – 1698 Florence)

Study of a Female Nude, with subsidiary studies of the arms

Red chalk, 208 x 318 mm (8.2 x 12.5 inch)

~ Carlo Lucido (Lugt 3269)
~ Jacques and Galila Hollander, Paris, until 2013


Florentine-born Simone Pignoni studied with Fabrizio Boschi and Domenico Passignano, but was most strongly influenced by his last teacher, Francesco Furini (c.1600–1646). Pignoni admired Furini’s sensual depictions of the female nude, and brought the theme to scandalous heights in his own works. He took such pride in his depiction of lascivious nudes, that in his self-portrait painted around 1650 he depicted himself painting a plum female nude. The picture was engraved for A.F. Gori’s Museum florentinum in 1731 (fig.).

Towards the end of his life Pignoni turned to religious subjects, repenting his former licentious pictures. The conversion is recounted by Giovanni Camillo Sagrestani, the artist’s pupil and biographer, in his manuscript Vite dei pittori (Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale): the propensity of Pignoni to paint beautiful young women was looked upon so severely by the priest who took his confession that is caused the old and ill artist to repent. The priest convinced Pignoni “to purge such errors with flames”, in other words to destroy his ‘immoral’ paintings, to regain his health, and to concentrate on pious subjects in the future. Posterity however remembers him principally for his early sensual pictures.

It has been suggested that our masterly observed study relates to Pignoni’s painting of Mary Magdalen, which survives in several versions.1 It may however be more likely that it is a study, in reverse, for his Bathsheba at her Bath of 1667 (fig.).2

Drawings by Pignoni are relatively rare. A comparable study of a female nude, protecting her face with her hand, also in red chalk, is preserved in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne, France (fig.).3 The careful observation of the female model is typical of the Florentine school of drawing in the seventeenth century, which placed much emphasis on studying the nude.


1. F. Baldassari, Simone Pignoni, Turin 2008, nos. 11-14.
2. Oil on canvas, 127 x 185.4 cm; with dealer Robilant and Voena, London, 2009.
3. Red chalk, 228 x 187 mm; inv. no. RF 50944 recto; see exh. cat. La donation Jacques Petithory, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, 1997, no. 288.