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Work Fishing Scene

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Scène de pêche

RMN-Grand Palais - Photo T. Le Mage

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Author(s):
Mancini Federica

Designed for one of the sixteen medallions in the Room of the Winds at Palazzo del Te in Mantua, this ingenious piece was highly esteemed for several centuries. It belonged to some of the most famous collectors in France. Jabach doubtless had the original as well as a copy, which he sold to the king, and Crozat included a reproduction in an engraving in his collection. It was then purchased by Mariette. The Fishing Scene was finally purchased for the Cabinet du Roi for the sum of 351 livres.

An outward motion

Fishermen dispersed in small groups pursue their tasks along a stretch of sea. They catch a large fish (a whale?), which is portrayed by the different positions of the men pulling on lines. An interplay of biased lines is the result, which produces a rhythm that lends the scene a balanced and airy cadence punctuated by alternating movements. To the left, figures reel in a line beside another figure, who is casting his line into the water. On the bank, two groups enhance the perspective by their outward movement. The fishermen's expressions correspond, in reality, to variations of a single model. These studies of a figure in motion are placed in an ample space with an open perspective; but they end ultimately focused on the castle, the only structure unconnected with the sea.

In honor of the Marquis Federico II

This very famous piece is a preparatory study for a medallion in the Sala dei Venti (the Room of the Winds) in the Palazzo del Te palace in Mantua, which was built between 1525 and 1535 by the Marquis Federico Gonzaga. The decoration of this room and the room of the Eagles (Sala delle Aquile) was completed between September 1527 and March 1528. The Sala dei Venti is decorated in part with representations of the months and symbols of the zodiac and, above the spandrels, the winds. Located on the springing stones of the arch, the medallions evoke human activities linked to the constellations, notably that of the whale. The choice of these activities would come from the immense selection described in the Matheseos Libri VIII of Firmico Materno, even if certain authors have noted that the diversions of the court, such as hunting and fishing, are treated in a more attentive manner than others, and are situated in expansive landscapes.

The pre-eminence of the design

The frescos in the Room of the Winds are the result of the collective efforts of several of Giulio's collaborators. They include Girolamo da Pontremoli, Rinaldo Mantovano, and D'Agostino de Mozzanega, who initially was granted the entire commission. Whoever the artist may have been, the painted version respects the master's original design. Its importance is all the more significant for presenting a unity of style with a sure and rapid stroke. It demonstrates, in effect, an unusual style for Giulio, who was generally inclined to penitent subjects.

Bibliography

Gombrich Ernest Hans, "The Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te", in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 13, 1950, pp. 189-201.
Hartt Frederick, Giulio Romano, New Haven, 1958, pp. 350-357.
Bacou Roseline, Autour de Raphaël, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1983-1984, n 42.
Giulio Romano, Mantova, Museo civico di Palazzo Te, 1989, notice p. 356, 164.
Boubli Lizzie, Savoir-faire. La variante dans le dessin italien au XVIe siècle, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2003, pp. 61 et 121, notice 68.

Technical description

  • Giulio Pippi, called Giulio Romano (Rome, 1492-Mantua, 1546)

    Fishing Scene

    1527-28

  • Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white (gouache) on beige paper

    H. 26.3 cm; W. 43 cm

  • Everhard Jabach collection, Pierre Crozat collection, Pierre-Jean Mariette collection, purchased for the Cabinet du Roi in 1775

    393561

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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