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A Design for an Elaborately Decorated Vase

Stefano Della Bella

* 1610 in Florence † 1664 in Florence

Pen and brown ink and brown wash. Size of sheet: 19.5 x 13 cm.

An Elaborate Vase Decorated with Nymphs, Snakes, a Swan and a Musical Score. Extensively inscribed on the musical scores at the centre and at the lower left. Watermark: Paschal lamb in a double circle [partial] (similar to Briquet 58-61; Rome 1531-1535, Naples 1548, 1570 and 1584).

Literature:      London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, Catalogue 1230: Art & Architecture,
                      1996, pp.5-6, no.7 (as Buffagnotti);
                      ‘The Salon du Dessin, Palais de la Bourse, Paris, 17th-22nd March 2004’, The Burlington Magazine,
                      March 2004, p.VI   [advertisement];
                      Paris, Paul Prouté S.A., Catalogue della Bella, 2004, pp.16-17, no.7.
 
Provenance:   Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London, in 1996 (as Carlo Antonio Buffagnotti).
                       Acquired from them by the Cattaneo collection.
                       Hill-Stone Inc., New York.
                       Galerie Paul Prouté, Paris, in 2004.
                       Monica Streiff, Switzerland.

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This remarkable drawing is an unusual addition to the corpus of drawings by Stefano della Bella. It does not relate to any known print by the artist, and may have been intended as a design for the frontispiece of a musical or theatrical book or manuscript, or perhaps as an autonomous work in its own right. The drawing may nevertheless be associated with a number of the many ornament prints that were commissioned from Stefano della Bella by Parisian publishers. The motif of the seated nymphs finds parallels in some examples from a set of decorative etchings by della Bella, the Raccolta di varii cappriccii et nove inventioni di cartelle et ornamenti, published in Paris in 1646 (1), while the nymphs and the form of the vase itself are akin to those found in a suite of six etchings of several different designs for vases, published as Raccolta di vasi diversi in c.1646 (2).

The nymphs in the present sheet are particularly close to those flanking one of the vases in one of the Raccolta di vasi iversi etchings (3), as well as a preparatory drawing for the etching in the Louvre (4). As Phyllis Dearborn Massar has noted of the Raccolta di vasi diversi etchings, ‘Fantastic vases, often based on antique bronzes, were perenially favorite subjects with printmakers. Stefano outfantasied all of them, both in the vases themselves and their exuberant contents.’ (5) The words of the sheet music which forms the central motif of this drawing seems to be a sonnet of sorts. Although the text is fragmentary, it can be read as ‘Dammi fortuna / parlami al Core piaga d’Amore li ridarò / cieca importuna tu dici nò nò cieca impor- / tuna tu dici cosi(?) nò nò’, while the text continues at the bottom of the sheet with the words ‘si pur felice’ (6).

Notes

1. Alexandre de Vesme and Phyllis Dearborn Massar, Stefano della Bella: Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1971, Vol.I, pp.156-158, nos.1027-1044; Vol.II, pp.224-228, figs.1027-1044. See, in particular, nos.1033 and 1036.

2. Ibid., Vol.I, pp.158-159, nos.1045-1050; Vol.II, pp.229-230, figs.1045-1050.

3. de Vesme and Massar, op.cit., Vol.I, p.159, nos.1049; Vol.II, p.230, fig.1049.

4. Inv. 405-1; Françoise Viatte, Musée du Louvre: Cabinet des dessins. Inventaire général des dessins italiens II: Dessins de Stefano della Bella, Paris, 1974, pp.104-105, no.145, fig.145, a detail illustrated on p.15.

5. Phyllis Dearborn Massar, Presenting Stefano della Bella: Seventeenth-century Printmaker, New York, 1971, p.71.

6. A very rough translation of this text would be: ‘My fortune, speak to my heart, sore with love, I will give them back, blind persistence you say no, no, blind persistence you only say no, no...be happy in any case.’ In a note to a previous owner, Robert Spencer suggested that the music of the aria illustrated in this drawing is ‘for voice and harpsichord (unfigured bass) in the style of Alessandro Stradella (1644-82) or Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)’, although at the time the drawing was thought to be the work of a later artist; the Bolognese theatre designer, engraver and musician Carlo Antonio Buffagnotti (b.1660).

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