Inscribed in red ink 48
Signed and dated
Medium and dimensions
Pencil and pen: grey wash614 x 312 (two joined sheets)
James Adam, office of (attributed to), after James Byres
The ceiling in this unfinished drawing is that of the vestibule of the Villa Doria Pamphilj (Villa Belrespiro), Rome, designed by Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654). The drawings in Adam vol.56/46 and 47 are also copies of the Villa's stucco work. They can be associated with the drawings after James Byres in Adam volume 26 such as 26/174. The drawing in Adam vol.26/167, attributed to Giuseppe Manocchi (c.1731-82), also after James Byres, depicts a similar style of ceiling composition. Also on the drawing is a pencil fragment of foliage ornament.According to a contemporary, Algardi 'apart from the good example of Raphael and Giulio Romano, betook himself to Tivoli to draw some remains of the celebrated Villa Adriana, and accustomed himself to a low relief stucco, lightly framing the area with purity and symmetrical spacing' (J. Montagu, Alessandro Algardi 2 vols., London, 1985, I, p.99). In the Adam sale of 1818 (Catalogue of A Valuable Collection of Antique Sculpture etc. R. Adam Christie's, London, 21 & 22 May 1818), lot 54 was a volume containing '218 drawings of vases, ornaments, from the antique at Rome, from the Villa Pamphili'. This drawing and those in Adam vol.56/46 and 47, and others in Adam volume 26 may have been part of this collection. As Stillman makes clear, Robert Adam used these studies of the Villa Pamphilj in his work on the drawing-room ceiling at Hatchlands in 1759-61 (see D. Stillman, The Decorative Work of Robert Adam, London, 1966, p.96). In his essay in 1762, James Adam placed Algardi, along with Michelangelo, Pirro Ligorio and Giovanni da Udine, among those who '...rendered many morcelles otherwise indifferent really precious to us and have imitated in no inconsiderable degree the beauty and elegance of the ancients...' (see J. Fleming, Robert Adam and His Circle in Edinburgh & Rome, London, 1962, p.317). In this he was repeating his brother Robert's opinion, for in September 1756 the latter had written 'of what good buildings are in Rome, either within or without particularly those done from the Ancients by Pirro Ligorio, Algardi & Salvi' (National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, Clerk of Penicuik Collection, GD18/4817).
Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation