UTA Professor of Renaissance Art Reattributes an Old Master Drawing in the Uffizi in Florence to Flemish Artist Denys Calvaert

Mary Vaccaro, a professor of renaissance art at The University of Texas at Arlington, has proved that a drawing in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence was the work of Denys Calvaert (c.1540-1619), an Antwerp-born artist who settled in Bologna during the Renaissance.

The drawing had previously been attributed to Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), a younger Bolognese painter whose fame eclipsed Calvaert’s during his lifetime.


A young woman, by Denys Calvaert. 1618. Black chalk on faded blue paper.

This discovery was published as a cover article in the leading art journal The Burlington Magazine.

“The identification of styles based on close looking is especially important in the art of the Renaissance, since critics of the day, such as Giorgio Vasari, defined art in terms of individual artists and their particular styles,” Vaccaro said.

Vaccaro made the new attribution of this double-sided study, during a brief trip to the Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe degli Uffizi funded by the Charles T. MacDowell Center for Critical Languages and Area Studies.

Kneeling figure seen from behind. verso of figure above, here attributed to Denys Calvaert. c.1607. Black chalk on faded blue paper.

She noticed that on one side was a drawing, executed in black chalk on faded blue paper, of a young woman. The other side had a second drawing of the bottom half of a draped figure with bare feet seen from behind, who kneels toward the left.

On the front side, Vaccaro first identified a signature and the date, 1618, a date when Carracci was already dead. Using a magnifying glass, she detected the name ‘Dionisio/Calvaert/1618’. She also noticed that the style of drawing and the figure of the young girl on the front corresponded strongly with other drawings by Calvaert.

Even more importantly, the purpose of the sketch on the other side exactly matches the lower half of a St. Francis painting in a signed and dated altarpiece of 1607 at the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery in Greenville, S.C.

“This work involves observation and attention to small details like the draftsmanship of facial features or other style aspects signaling a particular artist,” Vaccaro added. “This Calvaert discovery has been accepted by the art world and forms part of a large body of research where I have successfully re-attributed dozens of drawings in collections all over the world, including the Louvre and the British Museum, as well as the Uffizi.”

St. Francis receiving the Christ child from the Virgin, by Denys Calvaert. 1607.

Vaccaro spent additional time at the Uffizi during her appointment in 2015 as Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Visiting Professor at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The program is viewed as one of the foremost institutions for advanced research in the humanities in the world. Vaccaro held a year-long junior fellowship at the same institution in 1998-99.

Vaccaro joined UTA in 1994 and is a member of the UTA Academy of Distinguished Scholars. She received the Texas Fund for Curatorial Research grant in 2012 and 2011 for travel abroad when she examined Italian pre-1600 drawings in French regional collections, and has earned prestigious international grants, including a stint as a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“This skill of close looking employed in this research is important for multiple fields, not only art history,” Vaccaro said. “Medical schools such as Yale University now even require their medical students to take a course in which they go to museums and look carefully at art to sharpen their observational skills.”

The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000 in AY 2016-17, UTA is the largest institution in The University of Texas System. Guided by its Strategic Plan Bold Solutions | Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report also ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2017 Best for Vets list.


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