Artists and the Classical Ideal
(Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, until 26 September 2015)
It’s 1531. A group of men have gathered in a low-ceilinged room in the Belvedere wing of the Vatican. All natural light has been banished. Clustered around a table, they are drawing from a classical statuette, lit only by candlelight to emphasise the curves and shadows of its graceful form. At the back, holding the statuette, is a bearded man in a cap. He is Baccio Bandinelli: sculptor, draughtsman and master of this little group of students. This engraving is the first depiction of artists drawing from classical models, and also the first depiction of a gathering which regarded itself as an art ‘academy’.