Italian Drawings of the Sixteenth Century

Italian Drawings of the Sixteenth Century

Project organizer: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Italian Drawings of the Sixteenth Century


As one of the most traditional and comprehensive museums specializing in Art on Paper, the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett possesses a collection of Italian Old Master’s drawings of international stature. Not least among their holdings is a vast range of works from the high and late Renaissance era.

The collection includes around 500 single sheets, as well as six bound volumes containing another 600 drawings from an era that spans across the 16th century. Among these items are world-renown sheets, as well as a wide variety of high quality works that are as yet unknown to either scholars or the general public.

This on-going project supports the research and cataloguing of this important inventory. In terms of its content, it serves as a follow-up to the collection catalogues of Italian drawings from the 15th century published in 2006 and 2014, in which some of the early works by 16th century artists were already featured. With respect to methodology, and with the wealth and diversity of the material in mind, particular attention is being paid to fostering a dialogue with international colleagues.

Cataloguing in Dialogue

During the course of the project, the relevant sheets will gradually be published via the Online Collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Those sheets still in need of thorough research, as well as works from the early 17th century, will be deliberately included. Grouped according to schools, the drawings that have already been put online may also be found via the links below. Hints and suggestions concerning the works are always welcome, and may be sent by e-mail.

Drawings in the Online Collection

The additional data, results, tips, and thoughts on the drawings in Dresden that result from the dialogue amongst the project participants and other experts in the field are continually documented in the museum’s own database and is made available to researchers upon request. A medium-term goal is the presentation of a printed, comprehensively annotated collection catalogue. Beyond the data available via the Online Collection, we utilize a special format for digital research discourse, allowing participants to receive regular updates - password protected - on the progress of the cataloguing. In addition, they may also submit comments and suggestions.


First Project Stage

The Exhibition

A selection of approximately 100 sheets was presented to the public from October 2018 to January 2019 as part of the “The Realm of Possibilities. Italian drawings of the 16th century” exhibition. Included were numerous unpublished works and some new discoveries.

The title “The Realm of Possibilities” referred to both the central role of these drawings for the development of pictorial ideas, as well as the freedom that the medium offers as an independent art form. It also alluded to the never-ending process of the attribution and classification of Old Master drawings in regard to their iconography and functions. Since the interpretation of drawings, like the drawings themselves, is always influenced by temporal context, the exhibition also focused on acquisition and collection history, which spans more than four centuries. 

A fan-fold brochure released on the occasion of the exhibition offered an overview of both the collection and its history of acquisition. This publication was produced with the kind support of the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation.

Workshop and Traveling Seminars

The exhibition also provided the setting for an international workshop. Senior specialists came together with early and mid-career professionals to discuss the Dresden collection of 16th century Italian drawings, where they also discussed questions of curating prints and drawings in the present day. Another topic concerned the challenges of cataloguing complex inventories in the digital age.

Funding for the workshop was provided by the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation and by a major grant from the Getty Foundation as part of “The Paper Project. Prints and Drawings Curatorship in the 21st Century”.

The Getty Foundation grant also supported the group of early and mid-career professionals in the form of two traveling seminars. During the first seminar in winter 2018, the participants visited collections in Leipzig, Berlin, and Budapest. In June 2019, a second seminar took place in Frankfurt and offered insight into the important collection of Italian drawings in the Städel Museum. Day trips to collections in Düsseldorf, Darmstadt, and Stuttgart completed the program. This approach provided ideal opportunities for scholarly exchange and allowed a new generation of curators to deepen their knowledge of curatorial practice.

Curatorial Research Fellowship at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome

The three-month curatorial research fellowship at the Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome proved to be highly beneficial for the scholarly examination of the sheets, as well as the preparation for the second project phase. The fellowship allowed Marion Heisterberg to use the institution’s exceptional research infrastructure while expanding the discourse concerning the Dresden sheets with colleagues on site (01.07.–30.09.2019).


The program was headed up by the director of the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett, Stephanie Buck, together with curator Gudula Metze, Chris Fischer (Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Center for Advanced Studies in Master Drawings) as Senior Mentor, and Heiko Damm (Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg Universität) serving as Academic Advisor.

In addition, Marion Heisterberg, through her work as Project Coordinator for the colloquium and the first traveling seminar, contributed substantially to both the conception and the execution (01.06–31.12.2018). The second traveling seminar profited considerably in regards to content and organization from the work of Christoph Orth, who joined the project team as an assistant curator (01.04.–30.11.2019).


May 2017 to June 2019


Second Project Stage

Building on the experiences of the first project stage, the focus is now on cataloguing the Italian drawings of the 16th century. This process will involve art historical approaches, including provenance and collection history, as well as art technological research on the materiality of the drawings. Thanks to the renewed support from the Getty Foundation, as part of“The Paper Project. Prints and Drawings Curatorship in the 21st Century” initiative, it is possible to build on the foundation of a broad scholarly exchange and to involve colleagues from various disciplines for both cataloguing and methodical debate. In particular, a symposium in autumn 2020 will provide an opportunity to discuss questions of researching drawings and making them accessible to the public in the digital age.


October 2019 to April 2022 (publication of the catalogue expected in 2024)

Project managers

Gudula Metze, Curator for Italian, French, and Spanish Drawings and Prints to 1800, Kupferstich-Kabinett

SKD project staff

Lisa Jordan, Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Christoph Orth, Wissenschaftlicher Assistent/Getty Paper Project Postdoctoral Fellow

Director of the Kupferstich-Kabinett

Stephanie Buck

SKD Project Staff

Lisa Jordan, predoctoral fellow, Kupferstich-Kabinett (01.03.–30.11.2020)

Olaf Simon, paper conservator, Kupferstich-Kabinett
Johanna Ziegler, paper conservator, Kupferstich-Kabinett
Heidi Lachmann, student assistant
, Kupferstich-Kabinett (since 01.01.2020)
Dr. des. Christoph Orth, postdoctoral fellow, Kupferstich-Kabinett (01.09.2020-31.05.2022)


Chris Fischer, Kopenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Center for Advanced Studies in Master Drawings


The Getty Foundation

The Getty Foundation

Wolfgang Ratjen Stiftung, Vaduz

Other projects

Die Sammlung Theodor Bienert dokumentiert Bauwerke, Orte und Landschaften der sächsischen Topographie vom ausgehenden 16. bis zum frühen 20. Jahrhundert.


Die Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden vergeben ein FELLOWSHIP SCHENKUNG SAMMLUNG HOFFMANN.