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Drawing Connections: Cesare da Sesto's Sketchbook and the Production of Style

Elizabeth Bernick | Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Cesare da Sesto (1477-1523): II, 39 (recto) Studies for Figures and Grotesque Masks, pen and brown ink over black chalk. New York, The Morgan Library & Museum.

In 1508, the Milanese artist Cesare da Sesto was in Rome working alongside Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican. During this Roman sojourn, he began compiling a sketchbook that is one of the only of its kind to survive. From ca.1508–ca.1513, Cesare used this sketchbook to record and interpret the rich artistic climate around him, from Raphael's Madonnas to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling to Peruzzi's antiquarianism, all while referencing his exposure to Leonardo da Vinci back in Milan. When he left Rome to work in Naples and Sicily, Cesare took his sketchbook with him; indeed he kept it with him for the rest of his life, as he traversed the length of the Italian peninsula twice, encountering many of the most important artists and works of art of his generation along the way. This dissertation reconstructs the material history of the sketchbook (with folios now scattered across several collections), shedding new light on Cesare's life and art. A more complete knowledge of this traveling artist's graphic oeuvre, in turn, poses larger historiographical and theoretical questions about the very creation and dissemination of the "High Renaissance style."

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