This drawing is one of a series of sketches and drawings of ships in Livorno (Leghorn) made by the artist in Tuscany for Cosimo II de' Medici in 1617-22.

The Launch of a Galleon demonstrates the importance of commerce and naval power to the Medici regime in the seventeenth century. It shows the looming vessel surrounded by a host of tiny figures overshadowed by the tall walls of the arsenal. Figures at either side turn windlasses to heave the galleon forwards, while ropes stretch from it to the bottom centre-right where boats (not shown) help to pull it down the slipway. Barrels are attached to the underside of its hull for stability during launching. The V&A holds a major collection of Italian Old Master Drawings, especially related to design and the decorative arts and this is the first drawing by Liagno in the collection.

Provenance

Hon. AE Gathorne-Hardy before 1902; Geoffrey Gathorne-Hardy; Robert Gathorne-Hardy; Sotheby's, 1976; Robin Symes; Agnew's. The work has been vetted by the Art Loss Register.


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