Mariano Salvador Maella
Studie zweier Cherubs, 1773
Mariano Salvador Maella arrived in Madrid in 1750 and studied first under Felipe de Castro (1711-1775) and then in the newly founded Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando under Antonio González Velázquez. On his return to Madrid, after an extended Roman sojourn from 1757 to 1765, he found a champion in Anton Raphael Mengs, through whom he was awarded a number of commissions by Charles III. Before being named chamber painter in 1774, Maella frescoed several rooms in the royal palace of El Pardo. This sheet is a preliminary study for one of those frescoes.
In contrast to the relationship between the entire design and the finished version, which underwent obvious alterations, the two cherubs in this drawing-already strikingly large and thus preparatory to their painting—are a precise preliminary study for the small angels at the right edge of The Goddess Athena Triumphs over Vice. Aside from very slight changes the right arm of the left-hand cherub drawn in closer around his head, the hair of the cherub on the right the form of the wings and the billowing garments were somewhat varied in the fresco.
The masterfully executed and seemingly effortless drawing was first sketched in outline, then the shaded sections were added in rather flat planes with little hatching; finally a few more prominent spots were reworked with a stronger line. José de la Mano suspects that the drawing, still produced under Mengs's direction, must have had heightening in white that has been lost by abrasion.
1 Mano 2011, 464.