Pen and brown ink wash on laid paper – 4 ¾” x 2 5/8” (120 x 67 mm)
Provenance: Collection of Sir Lawrence Gowing (1918-1991)
The drawing is sold unframed, mounted on a conservation board - Framing proposal available upon request.
This drawing is very close to the other silverware designs created by Giulio Romano for the Gonzaga court in Mantua, where he settled from 1524 onwards. An exhibition organized a year ago at the Palazzo del Té in Mantua, La Forza delle Cose (The Force of Things) recalled the importance of these productions and underlined Giulio Romano's strong involvement in the design of these court objects, most of which have now disappeared.
1. Giulio Romano, Raphael's favorite pupil and official artist of the Gonzaga court
Giulio Romano was born in Rome in 1492 or 1499; his entourage preferred the diminutive Pippi to his family name (Gianuzzi), but he later adopted Romano as a surname, in reference to his hometown. He entered Raphael's studio as an apprentice in 1514, and became a painter in his own right, painting most of the frescoes in the Chamber of Constantine in the Vatican apartments of Leo X. On Raphael's death in 1520, he took over his workshop, completing the paintings left unfinished by his master, such as the Transfiguration.
The production of a series of erotic drawings inspired by Ovid led to Giulio Romano's disgrace with his papal patrons: the short-lived Adrian VI, then Clement VII. No longer welcome in his native city, the artist moved to Mantua, where he remained until his death. Arriving in October 1524, he became the official artist of Marquis Frederick II, who appointed him Prefect of Buildings, the highest artistic and architectural responsibility in the territory. Like many Renaissance artists, Giulio Romano's responsibilities included the decoration of the city, the pavement of the streets, the design of fortifications, as well as the creation of precious silver objects to adorn the Gonzaga table. Between 1526 and 1534, his most important work was the Palazzo del Te, for which he designed both the architecture and interior decoration.
2. Giulio Romano's inventions for the Gonzaga table
In the wedding banquet scene featured in the Hall of Love and Psyche in the Palazzo del Te (third photo in the gallery), Giulio Romano depicts a console richly adorned with silverware, evoking the ostentatious luxury of princely tables during the Italian Renaissance.
Giulio Romano's first known silverware design was a salt cellar resting on five ityphallic satyrs, which he designed in Rome during the winter of 1525-1526. This salt cellar was thereafter produced for Frederick II in gilded silver. Giulio Romano was particularly adept at transforming naturalistic elements, whether animal or vegetable, into functional or structural components of his inventions. Often produced by Roman goldsmiths, most of these objects unfortunately fell victim to the whims of fashion and were melted down after the death of their patron.
3. Description of the drawing and comparable artworks
Our drawing, unfortunately fragmentary, represents the central part of a candlestick: while the two concave lines suggest a flared base, the bowl filled with leaves and fruits that crowns it must itself have been surmounted by a bobeche designed to collect the wax. Around the body of the candlestick (adorned with leaf motifs) runs a frieze probably consisting of four putti (three of whom are visible in the drawing) depicted standing, their legs intertwined, as they rotate around this central axis, holding hands.
Many of the drawings attributed to Giulio Romano are very similar to this one, and fully justify the attribution of this drawing to the artist.
Putti are a favorite element of Giulio Romano's decorative repertoire, as can be seen from this salt cellar project (from the Devonshire collection at Chatsworth) in which they are used as a grip on the lid (fourth photo in the gallery).
The same putti frieze motif can also be found on the base of another candlestick, a study of which (shown below alongside an enlarged detail of the round putti) is in the Metropolitan Museum’s collections in New York (fifth and sixth photo in the gallery).
The similarity between the gadrooned bowl that crowns the putti frieze and another project preserved at the Metropolitan, led us to believe that our drawing must also have been a project for a candlestick (last photo in the gallery).
Main bibliographical reference :
(A cura di) Barbara Furlotti & Guido Rebecchini - Giulio Romano - La Forza delle Cose - Marsilio Editori - Venezia 2022
Delevery information :
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