Work Seated Lord Holding a Falcon on his Left Fist
Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century
Seigneur assis, tenant un faucon sur le poing gauche
Prints and Drawings
Niccolò dell'Abbate was one of the many Italian artists who left their home country, drawn by the prestige of the court of France. This Seated Lord Holding a Falcon is a remarkable example of the elegance and originality of Italian mannerism. It was executed using a combination of different yet well matched techniques.
An enduring theme
This drawing, almost certainly part of a series to which belongs the Cambridge drawing (Fitzwilliam Museum), demonstrates Niccolò dell'Abbate's interest in the courtly lifestyle, a recurring theme in the artist's work. Because the same subject features in works of the artist's Bolognese period, scholars have associated this drawing with cycles such as the frescoes of Bologna's Palazzo Poggi. Yet stylistic similitudes connect it with other prints and drawings from the artist's French period, in which we find the same theme.
Quick, lightly drawn lines
The figure of the young man is very well constructed. Diagonal lines traced to give the composition balance are visible. The figure's body is lithe and elegant, and carefully studied movements produce a very natural pose: the work is a magnificent example of the formal rules of the mannerist period. This drawing, like all those of the artist's French period, is characterized by lightly traced lines thickened by fluid touches of wash and here, brown ink heightened with white creates volume. The artist constructed the image in a pictorial manner, which reflects his skill as a colorist.
The Fontainebleau period
In 1552, Niccolò dell'Abbate was summoned to the Château de Fontainebleau by the French king, on the suggestion of Primaticcio, who probably saw dell'Abbate's work while traveling in Emilia. The château ballroom marked the beginning of the collaboration between the two Bolognese artists, and gave rise to two absolute masterpieces: the decoration of the Galerie d'Ulysse and that of the Chapelle de Guise. Primaticcio invited dell'Abbate to work on all the major projects at Fontainebleau. Although texts allude to the occasionally strained relationship between Primaticcio and dell'Abbate, Giorgio Vasari reports that "niuno gli ha fatto più onore di Nicolo da Modena." ("Nobody honored him more than Nicolo da Modena.") A master colorist, dell'Abbate added his "modern sense" of touch and vitality to the drawings of Primaticcio. As part of the school of Fontainebleau, Niccolò dell'Abbate expressed his own personality, always with the voice of a soloist. Yet his artistic activity proved highly fruitful: in addition to his drawings, he made sketches for engravings, festive events, and metalwork. His formal style was to carry great weight with the two generations of artists of the school of Fontainebleau.
BibliographyBéguin S., in Mostra di Nicolo dell'Abbate, Bologne, Palais de l'Archiginnasio, 1969, notice 63, p. 122-123.
Bacou R. et Béguin S., L'École de Fontainebleau, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1972-1973, notice 16.
Fortunati Pietrantonio V., Pittura bolognese del '500, vol. I, Bologne, 1986.
Niccolò dell'Abbate (1509/1512-c. 1571)
Seated Lord Holding a Falcon on his Left Fist
Pen, brown ink, brown wash heightened with white on beige paper
H. 20.2 cm; W. 14.8 cm
Everhard Jabach Collection; purchased for the Cabinet du Roi in 1671
Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.
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