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Drawing - Caricature of a man with four flying letters
  • Caricature of a man with four flying letters
    Mola, Pier Francesco, born 1612 - died 1666
  • Enlarge image

Caricature of a man with four flying letters

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Rome (probably, drawn)

  • Date:

    ca. 1647-1657 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mola, Pier Francesco, born 1612 - died 1666 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case IONIDES, shelf 6, box A

When C.A. Ionides purchased this drawing it was thought to be a contemporary work by Honoré Daumier, one of his favourite French artists. However, it was later noticed that the flying letters in this drawing are inscribed 'Mola', referring to a seventeenth century Roman artist well-known for his witty caricatures. Here, a letter-writer reacts in alarm as his correspondence sprouts wings and flutters away like a flock of birds.

Physical description

Pen and ink drawing showing a man sitting behind a desk, throwing up both hands in startled response to winged letters which appear in the top right hand corner.

Place of Origin

Rome (probably, drawn)


ca. 1647-1657 (drawn)


Mola, Pier Francesco, born 1612 - died 1666 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink


Height: 17.6 cm, Width: 17.5 cm

Object history note

Bequeathed by C.A. Ionides, 1900

Descriptive line

Pen and ink drawing by Pier Francesco Mola showing a man with four flying letters

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ward-Jackson, Peter, Italian Drawings, Volume Two: 17th-18th Century , London, 1979, p. 70, cat. n. 773, illus.

The following is the full text of the entry:


Caricature of a man, probably the artist, seated at a desk, watching with astonishment four winged letters flying through the air Pen and ink and wash
6 7/8 x 6 5/8 (174 x I68) CAI.264
PROVENANCE Ionides Bequest 1901 (Lugt 488)
LITERATURE Ionides Catalogue, p. 24 (as by Daumier); The Studio, special number on Daumier and Gavarni, 1904, pI. D.53;
E. Fuchs, Der Maler Daumier, Munich, I927, p. 57, no. 240A and pl. 240
The drawing was attributed to Daumier in the works cited. Mr James Byam Shaw first noticed that the flying letters appear to be inscribed 'Mola', and he proposed the present attribution, which is convincing on grounds of style. A similar caricature by Mola is in the Janos Scholz Collection, New York (Exhibition Catalogue, Italian Drawings from the collection of Janos Scholz, Arts Council, London, I968, no. 60; fig. I3b).


Pen and ink




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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