Lot 35
  • 35

Prospero Fontana Bologna 1512 - 1597

2,000 - 3,000 GBP
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  • Prospero Fontana
  • a: the emperor julianb: the contest between reason and passion
  • b inscribed in Greek
  • a: pen and brown ink and wash, over traces of black chalk;
    b: pen and brown ink and grey-brown wash

Catalogue Note

These two drawings come from a series of eighty-four designs, previously bound together in an album which was sold London, Sotheby's, 13 July 1972, lot 23.  The drawings were engraved, in the same direction, by Giulio Bonasone for some of the one hundred and fifty plates illustrating Achille Bocchi's Symbolicarum Quaestionum de Universo Genere quas serio ludebat, Libri Quinque, published in Bologna in 1555. Others from the series are in the British Museum.1  The Symbolicarum Quaestiones consisted of a series of short allegorical poems divided into five books, each page preceded by a full-page engraving and numbered SYMB I to CLI.  The poems fall into four subject categories: Metaphysics, Physics, Ethics and Philology.
A is in the same direction as the print, which is inscribed in the space at the bottom: Julianus Imp;  B is also in the same direction as the print.2  Formerly thought to be by Bonasone himself, the drawings from this album were reattributed to Prospero Fontana by John Gere and Philip Pouncey3 following Malvasia who, in the Felsina Pittrice, described Fontana as being responsible for many of the designs for Bocchi's book.  Most of the eighty-four drawings are done in the same technique of delicate pen and ink and wash and are of roughly the same size.  Pouncey and Gere noted their 'sophisticated if at times rather superficial elegance' which they found hard to reconcile with Bonasone's more clumsy and provincial character.  This, combined with the Florentine traits evident in the designs, reinforces the attribution to Fontana who worked with Vasari and would have encountered Salviati, whose influence is particularly visible.  Slight variations of style among the drawings may indicate that they are not all by the same hand.
A further discussion of the emblems can be found in Adalgisa Lugli's article on the subject.4

1. See J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, Italian Drawings, Artists Working in Rome c.1550 to c.1640, London 1983, pp. 78-79, reproduced

2. See Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 29, nos. 206 and 247

3. Gere and Pouncey, 1983, loc. cit.

4. Atti del XXIV Congresso Internazionale di Storia dell'Arte 1979, Bologna 1982, p. 87ff