Skip Navigation

Italian Sketchbook

Sanford Robinson Gifford

American Art

This sketchbook served as a travel diary for the Hudson River School landscape painter Sanford Robinson Gifford during his journeys in France, Switzerland, and Italy. In this two-page spread depicting the church of Santa Caterina del Sasso, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Maggiore in Italy, Gifford’s precise and assured lines exemplify his skills as a draftsman. A practitioner of plein air sketching, the artist used these drawings as preparatory studies for paintings executed later in his studio. The small framed motifs that appear on this and other pages of the sketchbook show his initial experiments with composition.
MEDIUM Graphite on tan, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper
DATES 1867–1868
DIMENSIONS 5 x 9 x 7/16 in. (12.7 x 22.9 x 1.1 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE [see Description]
INSCRIPTIONS [see Description]
CREDIT LINE Gift of Jennie Brownscombe
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Bound sketchbook of 38 pages with drawings of Italian landscape subjects and one Catskills, New York subject. Sketchbook bound with cardboard covers lined with tan fabric. Front cover: inscribed in artist's hand, "Maggiore / Como / Sicily / Rome / Genoa / 1868"; inscribed in different hands, "Presented to Jervis McEntee by [Jas?] Gifford [?] Sanford / [?] January 25 1881." and "From Sara McEntee to Geo. H. Hall / in memory of her Brother [and?] Gifford / Sept. [6 or 8?]. 1892. Palenville" [Museum numbered recto and verso pages in succession. All drawings in graphite unless otherwise noted] Inside front cover: small landscape sketch, inscribed in artist's hand, "S R Gifford / Studio Building 51 West 10th. St / New York" p. 1: landscape sketch, inscribed lower left, "Da Civita Lavinia. Oct 30th." p. 2: very sketchy landscape p. 10: small, lightly sketched landscape in rectangle oriented vertically p. 11: (half page) small landscape sketch in rectangle oriented vertically p. 12: (half page) figures and tiny sketch of island with towers in rectangle p. 13: landscape with buildings, inscribed lower right, "Road to Subiaco. Oct 16th. 68." pp. 14-15: panoramic landscape, inscribed bottom of p. 15, "Highlands of Neversink. July 23 1867" p. 17: sketch of Louvre in Paris viewed through trees with carriages in foreground, oriented vertically, inscribed at binding on facing p. 16, "June '68-" p. 18: small landscape sketch (same scene as on facing p. 19) p. 19: landscape sketch in mountains with foreground figures, inscribed lower left, "Val d'Aosta" and "Cormayeur [Courmayeur] July 10 68" and color notations on landscape elements including "g. gray", "[PB?]", "GB" p. 21: sketch of mountain peak in graphite with touches of white wash or chalk, oriented vertically, inscribed lower left "x Glacier" and color notation "green" in foreground p. 22: light sketch of structure atop rocks, oriented vertically p. 23: loose sketch of mountain with cabin & figures in foreground, oriented vertically pp. 24-25: panoramic mountain landscape, inscribed p. 25 lower right, "Col de Monte Moro-" p. 26: loosely sketched mountains, oriented vertically, inscribed lower left, "Val Antasca" p. 27: sketch of mountaintop pp. 28-29: partial sketch of buildings and panorama of island fortress in lake, inscribed p. 29 lower right, "Isla San Julio. Lago d'Orta. Julio [20th or 21st]. 1868." pp. 30-31: vertical landscape sketch, inscribed below "Montenerone?" and horizontal sketch of lakeside town, inscribed bottom of p. 31 "Borgo d'Orta" pp. 32-33: from left to right, vertical sketch of town with boats, small landscape in rectangle, panoramic lakeside landscape, inscribed along bottom of p. 33 "Sassa di Calci. July 30' 68" "Monte Ferro. Laveno from Stresa." "Cesso" p. 34: sketch of boats, two sketches of abbey in rectangle (same motif as p. 35) p. 35: sketch of abbey, inscribed at bottom, "Santa Caterina. Miracolo San Alberto. July 31st 1868." p. 37: view of roof of cathedral, inscribed lower right, "Milan. / July 27th 68." pp. 38-39: panoramic landscape, inscribed p. 38 "Monte Rosa" and "Mischabel" and p. 39 "Sempioni from the Campo Santo of Laveno. July 31st 68." pp. 40-41: vertical sketch of palazzo and of boat and sculpture, inscribed "Rtop brown red. Chim grey + red / Water yel white. / Boats blk white + red + grey / [Curtains?] brown yel."; horizontal panorama of palazzo on lakeside with figures, inscribed bottom of p. 41 "Palanza [Pallanza]. Aug 1st 1868." pp. 42-43: vertical sketch of lakeside village, inscribed below "Vira- / near Magadino / Aug 2nd. 1868. / Yel cupola"; and horizontal landscape sketch across lake, inscribed along bottom of p. 43 "Oria-" "Sassa di Carsognia [Sasso di Cressogno] - / higher and narrower" "[Sommanetti?] - Lago di Lugano - Aug 3rd." pp. 44-45: vertical sketch of lake with boat and mountains, inscribed below "Aug 6th. Sassa di Carsognia"; horizontal landscape sketch, inscribed at bottom p. 45 "Lago di Lecco. Aug 6th 68." pp. 46-47: from left to right, vertical sketch of figures in tunnel through mountain, inscribed at bottom "water" [two times] and "Galleries of the Stelvio Rd / Lake Como. Aug '68"; view of lake; horizontal sketch of tunnel; sketch of lake and outline of buildings pp. 48-49: panoramic landscape with town on lake, inscribed lower right p. 49 "Lago di Como / da San Giovanni / agosto 7th. 1868." pp. 50-51: vertical sketches of tower on rocky coast, inscribed below "La Lanterna / at Genoa / Aug 14th 68" and color notations "tower yel / base + lower walls grey / lower bastion red / tower thicker."; sketch of bastion and sailboats with "sentry", "lower bastion" and "sea"; small sketch of tower in rectangle; loose outline of bastion pp. 52-53: sketch of lakeside town, inscribed at bottom of p. 53 "Genoa. Aug 15th. 68." and artist's notations throughout image including "[1 Shadow?]", "yel", "red", "grey", "wt", "grey stained / with filth + / vegetation" and "white cloth / out of window" pp. 54-55: light sketch of lakeside village, inscribed bottom of p. 55 "Aug 25th 1868 near Chiavari. Riviera de Levante" pp. 56-57: sketch of ruins, inscribed lower right p. 57 "red brick + / grey stone." "Sept 14th. 68. / Taormina / Greek Theater." p. 59: landscape sketch in graphite with touch of white wash of volcano with town on shore, framed in rectangle, inscribed below "Giardini. Sept 14th. x City" pp. 60-61: landscape sketch with buildings and hilltop town. pp. 62-63: from left to right, vertically oriented sketch of mountains, inscribed lower left "Monte Venere."; small sketch of mountains in rectangle; landscape sketch, inscribed top right "mt.1/2 in longer.", in landscape foreground "Cone", and at bottom right "Near Bagaria. Bay of Palermo. Sept 22. 1868." p. 65: landscape with structure on lake shore, inscribed bottom right "Bay of Palermo. Sept 22' 1868." p. 67: sketch of lakeside town with boats and figures, inscribed at bottom "Road to Bagaria near Palermo.", "white clothes.", "yel rock" and on building in foreground "[Gr color?] pp 68-69: from left to right, vertically oriented sketch of ruins with figure in rectangle, inscribed below "Top of arch / same depth as / the blue. / Yel + grey white. / Sea darkest at bottom. / column grey. / Tiles red." and "Santa Rosalia. 23rd Sept. / Monte Pelegrino."; small sketch of ruins and figures in rectangle; horizontally oriented sketch of sailboat; horizontal landscape with boats and figures. pp. 70-71: [upside down (described from artist's orientation)], sketch of ancient arch in ruins with landscape in background, inscribed below on p. 70 "Arch of Nero / Oct 11, 1868"; several figures including one with color notations "yel / white / Blue / white / Red"; another sketch of arch in rectangle in graphite with touches of white wash p. 72: vertical sketch of seated woman p. 73: sketch of arch in ruins, inscribed lower right "Arch of Nero. Oct 11th" p. 74: several small sketches of townscape, seated woman, and landscape in rectangle p. 75: sketch of town in mountains in graphite with touches of white wash, inscribed lower right "Tivoli Oct 14th 68" inside back cover: two small sketches of landscapes in rectangles
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Sanford Robinson Gifford (American, 1823–1880). Italian Sketchbook, 1867–1868. Graphite on tan, medium-weight, slightly textured wove paper, 5 x 9 x 7/16 in. (12.7 x 22.9 x 1.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Jennie Brownscombe, 17.141 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 17.141_p00_front_cover_PS6.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 17.141_p00_front_cover_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement. You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act. The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals. For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.