Children Playing Marbles (copy from a Roman sarcophagus) (76 x 296 mm.)
Italy, Rome (?), c. 1550
Greco-Roman antiquities were much admired during the Italian Renaissance. Artists often included allusions to recently discovered classical art in their compositions; they also studied, measured, and copied coins, gems, sculpture, and buildings from antiquity. This anonymous drawing is evidence of such fascination. Carefully rendered and finely modeled, the drawing copies the front panel of a late antique Roman sarcophagus depicting children playing with nuts, a precursor to the game of marbles. A group of five children on the left play a hand game called morra to determine which one will play first. Two youths in the center fight, presumably over the outcome. On the right, a youth casts marbles on the ground as his companions look on. The style suggests that the drawing was executed in the second half of the sixteenth century perhaps in Rome.