Asclepius (recto); Study of a Male Youth Bearing

Anton Raphael Mengs made drawings on both sides of this sheet in preparation for one of his best known works, The Apotheosis of Hercules in the Palacio Real in Madrid. One figure each corresponds to a character on opposite sides of the fresco, a heavily populated scene that honors Hercules, who was regarded as the mythical founder of the Spanish monarchy. On the recto of this sheet, the imposing figure of Asclepius--god of medicine and healing--stands in an exaggerated contraposto pose, one hand loosely resting against a staff. The voluminous fabric of his tunic ripples out from his waist and flows around his body to dramatic sculptural effect. The figure on the verso side of the sheet depicts a classical figure holding leaves. White chalk highlights his backside. Both bodies are seen from below and demonstrate close attention to anatomy and the artist's mastery of foreshortening. Both drawings are also squared for transfer, indicating that Mengs intended to enlarge these versions for his fresco.

Black chalk with white chalk heightening on blue green paper; squared for transfer (about 1762)

by Anton Raphael Mengs (German, 1728-1779)

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