Brigrand (circa 1588; bears his paraphe, verso, not in Lugt);
J.-J. Feuchère (1807-1852), according to pencil annotation, verso (Primatice/ Cabinet de Feuchère),
possibly his sale, Paris, 8 March 1853, part of lot 142 ('Deux beaux dessins pour les Peintures de Fontainebleau');
Private collection, Paris
This handsome drawing is a recent discovery, first published at the time of the exhibition devoted to Primaticcio at the Louvre in 2004. It is a preparatory study for one of the four rectangular paintings on the ceiling of the second bay of the Galerie d'Ulysse at Fontainebleau.
The construction of the gallery began in 1536-7. Primaticcio was asked to take over the decoration when Rosso died in 1540. It was an enormous project, as the gallery is 155 metres long, so he chose to divide the space into fifteen compartments. The program was probably designed as early as 1541-43, but it is probable that the actual decoration was only started in 1546 when Primaticcio returned from Italy. Although he was responsible for the whole elaborate scheme, and made extensive preparatory drawings for it, he left the execution to his assistants, Nicolò dell'Abate and younger artists. The vault was close to completion when work stopped in 1550 because of the decoration of the Salle de Bal, but was resumed in 1555 and finally completed in 1570. The gallery was destroyed in the 18th century, so an understanding of the ensemble depends upon the surviving preparatory drawings, as well as copies and engravings after the paintings and some written descriptions.
Primaticcio's drawings not only offer a record of this important cycle, but also reveal his working method and the precision of his instructions to Nicolò dell'Abate and his assistants. The decoration in the second bay was composed of seven paintings of three different shapes.1 The present subject, described by Mariette in his Abecedario as 'Eole renfermant les Vents',2 was painted in one of the four corners, in rectangular format. Its companions were Mercury, Minerva, and Vulcan at his Forge. Primaticcio's preparatory drawings for those also survive, two in the Louvre and one at the Getty Museum.3 A fascinating preliminary chalk study for the present subject is in the Uffizi.4 Variously attributed to Rosso Fiorentino and to Francesco Morandini, called Il Poppi, it was recognised as a Primaticcio by Sylvie Béguin. It is a rare type of working drawing, very close in composition to the present one, but more freely drawn and representing an earlier stage in which the artist is still searching for a solution. Stylistically, the Getty Vulcan at his Forge is the closest to our Aeolus, with the same broken lines, the rather smooth texture and the strong outlines which create volume so effectively and which are characteristic of this kind of Primaticcio drawing. Both are heightened with white and squared for transfer and appear somewhat more elaborated than the Mercury and Minerva in the Louvre. At the centre of the painted bay was an octagonal depiction of Neptune Releasing the Storm, for which a compositional study by Primaticcio survives in the Louvre.5 Two ovals, on either side of the centre, represented Venus and Amor with a putto and Vertumnus and Pomona, for which preparatory studies are, respectively, in the Albertina and the Musée Condé, Chantilly.6 A copy, with differences, for the Aeolus, is in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg and has been attributed to Nicolò dell'Abate by Sylvie Béguin.7
Trained at the court of Mantua, Primaticcio brought to Fontainebleau the working methods of Raphael's workshop which were transmitted to him by Giulio Romano. Vittoria Romani writes that Primaticcio's decoration for the Galerie is based on the decorative scheme adopted by Raphael for his work for Pope Leo X Medici in the Vatican Logge.8 The fame of the Galerie d'Ulysse soon overshadowed the work done by Rosso for François I and it became a place of pilgrimage for many artists in the following centuries. According to Mariette, Poussin 'ne connaissait rien de plus propre à former un peintre et à échauffer le génie.'
The pen and ink inscription at the bottom of the drawing, Bologne, is in the hand of a still unidentified early collector and reflects the fact that Primaticcio was nicknamed after his native city. The inscription, always in the same hand and written either in pen and ink or in white heightening, is found on many drawings by Primaticcio.
1. For a reconstruction of the second bay see, S. Béguin, J. Guillaume, A. Roy, La Galerie d'Ulysse à Fontainebleau, Paris 1985, p. 120, reproduced fig. II
2. P.J. Mariette, Abecedario, Paris 1859, VI, p. 294
3. Louvre, inv. nos. 8529, 8525, see Literature, op. cit., pp. 302-3, nos. 142-143, reproduced; Getty, inv. no. 84.GA.54, see G. R. Goldner, European Drawings,1, Catalogue of the Collections, Malibu 1988, p. 94, no. 36, reproduced p. 95
4. Inv. no. 471F, see Literature, op. cit., p. 301, no. 140, reproduced
5. Inv. no. RF565, see Literature, op. cit., p. 300, no. 139, reproduced
6. Albertina inv. no. 1973S, Chantilly inv. no. 135F, see S. Béguin, et al., op. cit., p. 134, under Sujets Secondaires, A, reproduced figs. 8, 10
7. Inv. no. 5308, see ibid., p. 135, reproduced p. 136, fig. 14
8. Literature, op. cit., p. 293
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