L.51 Designs of Various Kinds of Table Service Objects and Table Ornaments for Francis I


Vasari, 1568, II, 211 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 170), in the French part of the “Life” of Rosso: “… si come sono ancora infiniti disegni, che il Rosso fece di saliere, vasi, conche, ed altri bizzarrie, che poi fece fare qual Re [Francis I] tutti d’Argento, le quali furono tante che troppo sarebbe di tutte voler far menzione.  E però basti dire, che fece disegni per tutti i vasi d’una credenza da Re…”  Then, in writing of the engravings that Boyvin made after Rosso’s designs, Vasari (1568, II, 308; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 434) writes of the “vasi, lumiere, candelieri, saliere, ed altre cose simile infinite state lavorati d’Argento con disegno del Rosso.”

Le Comte, III, 1702, 10-11 (as reported by Kusenberg, 1931, 203, n. 259), adds to what Vasari says that the table service executed after Rosso’s designs was used during the banquet given by Francis I on the occasion of the visit of Charles V to Fontainebleau.  No source is known for this remark and it is probably only a conjecture, but a likely one if the objects of which Vasari writes existed at the end of 1539.  Kusenberg, 1931, 105, 203, ns. 260-263, mentions an inventory of 1560 of the gold and silver objects in the royal collection at Fontainebleau, where, however, they are not precisely described; he also identifies such objects in prints by Boyvin and Fantuzzi, as well as in one drawing formerly in the Destailleur Collection, as Rosso’s designs.  Barocchi, 1950, 252, tends to see these designs as closer to Cellini than to Rosso.  Zerner, 1969, XLIV, A.F.52-54b, considers the etchings by Fantuzzi as after Rosso.  Thirion, 1971, 45-47, discusses the prints by Boyvin and Fantuzzi as after Rosso’s designs and remarks upon their influence on Cellini.  Borea, 1980, 261, believes it reasonable to attribute the designs of Fantuzzi’s prints to Rosso.

Although the objects engraved by Boyvin (RE.11, 1-9) and one by Fantuzzi (Fig.RD.22, Etching) are all inspired by Rosso’s art, their specific style does not seem to be his.  It is quite likely that these prints, none of which bears Rosso’s name, are all dependent on lost drawings by Léonard Thiry (but not the ten vessels set on ledges in two of Fantuzzi’s etchings, which are related neither to Rosso nor to Thiry, Fig.Fantuzzi, Paris, I and Fig.Fantuzzi, Paris, II).1  Two drawings of similar objects, one of a small water bottle (Fig.Water bottle), formerly in the Destailleur Collection, the other of a small casket, in the Louvre (Fig.Small casket), may also be associated with Thiry.2

Only one such design might actually be by Rosso himself, the Design for a Candlestick, known from a copy of a lost drawing in St. Petersburg (Fig.D.49).  But this drawing, along with the very Rossoesque prints and drawings that can be connected to Thiry, certainly leads one to suppose the former existence of other drawings by Rosso of such objects (Carroll, 1987, 31, 35, n. 97).  From these designs actual silver objects might well have been fashioned and may have survived long enough to be listed in the inventory of 1560.  For a lost “vaisselle d’argent” that Francis I had made in 1536 or 1537 as a gift to James V of Scotland, and which could have been designed by Rosso, see under RE.11, 1-9.

One cannot, of course, know how many drawings of table service objects Rosso made.  Vasari indicates many.  There is the possibility that after making a few he used them as models to train his assistants – Léonard Thiry, in particular – in how to invent similar designs for the king’s silversmiths.  However, there is no evidence that Rosso used his assistants in this way for any other project of his.  It is more probable that the designs attributable to Thiry, including the two dishes on high bases decorated with Francis I’s Salamander (Fig.RE.11,4), were made after Rosso’s death to serve the printmaker and to meet the need for Rossoesque designs when authentic ones were not available.

For further discussion of Rosso’s possible activity as a designer of such objects, see D.49 and the catalogue entries for the rejected drawings and prints mentioned above.  For a reference to “vaiselles” in the Cabinet du Trésor at Fontainebleau, see Gilles Corrozet, Les Blasons domestiques, 1539, 30, transcribed by K. Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 88.  On the St. Michael cup, in Vienna, made in Paris, 1535-1540, with motifs related to Rosso’s art, see Hackenbroch, 1966, 84, 86, Fig. 5.3

Designs for Jewelry

There are no sources that indicate that Rosso made designs for jewelry in France.  However, there are twenty engravings of jewelry designs from Boyvin’s studio that seem to be based on drawings by Thiry and that could reflect the kinds of inventions that Rosso made and that have been lost (see below).  Of course the prints could represent mere extrapolations from Rosso’s decorative vocabulary used in the large painted and stucco schemes that he designed for the château at Fontainebleau.  Nevertheless, jewelry was needed at the French court and it is reasonable to conjecture that Rosso designed some.

The themes and figural vocabulary of these jewelry designs are closely related to details in the Gallery of Francis I as transcribed by Léonard Thiry in his drawings for Boyvin’s twenty-six engravings of the Story of Jason (RE.15).  Pagan scenes of ritual washing and sacrifice occupy the centers of a pair of brooches (Fig.R-D, 162) recalling the Scene of Sacrifice in the Gallery of Francis I, while another pair of pendants show the Annunciation flanked by Adam and Eve on one pendant and on the other the Tablets of the Law with a scholar seated with an open book at each side (Fig.R-D, 163), the latter recalling Rosso’s St. Paul and St. Peter engraved by Boyvin (Fig.E.8a) with the Tablets of the Law set into the frame above them.  Two brooches on one plate show on one Acteon approaching Diana’s nude companions at their bath, and on the other Narcissus looking at his image in a pool of water as Diana looks on from the darkness of the woods in which she hides (Fig.R-D, 168).  Rings (Fig.R-D, 160), earrings (Fig.R-D, 169) and bracelets or chains (Fig.R-D, XI, 24.3) freely use the ornamental detail of the Gallery of Francis I for their own richness and delight without reference to a particular subject.

For references to the jewels in the Cabinet du Trésor at Fontainebleau, see Gilles Corrozet, Les Blasons domestiques, 1539, 30, transcribed by K. Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 88, and 98, 100-101, no. 50, on a print of a jewelry design by Du Cerceau “dans l’esprit du Rosso.”

On other drawings and prints of jewelry designs that reflect Rosso’s art, see J.J.L. Whiteley, “Drawings of the Médallons Historiques,” Master Drawings, XXX, 2, 1992, 174-184; see also Hackenbroch, 1966, 84, 87, Fig. 7, of a ring probably made at Fontainebleau.4


1Five Decorative Vessels on a Ledge, I, 17.5 x 32.7, and II, 17.3 x 32.5.  Herbet, II, 1896, 275-277 (1969, 71-73), 24 and 25, as Fantuzzi.  Zerner, 1969, A.F.52 and A.F.53.  Kusenberg, 1931, 166, as Fantuzzi after Rosso.  Thirion, 1971, 46, and n. 90.  Raggio, 1974, 74.  The shapes of these vessels and their grotesque and naturalistic ornament are not related to Rosso’s vocabulary.

2 On the Destailleur drawing, see Weigel, 1865, 656, no. 7735b; and Kusenberg, 1933, 168, Fig. 7, 170.  On Louvre Inv. 1583, see Kusenberg, 1931, 149, no. 17.

3 Thirion, 1971, 45, 47, suggested that Rosso made furniture designs that may be seen or reflected in the prints of Du Cerceau.  I have not seen any works by Du Cerceau that indicate a direct dependence on furniture drawings by Rosso.

4 Twenty Engravings for Jewelry, 9-9.2 x 14.4 (Robert-Dumesnil), except the first (Robert-Dumesnil, 160), 9 x 42.7.  Title page inscribed: Au Sieur Aulbin du Carnoy / Orfebure et valet de Chambre / Dv Roy, and: Paulcs de la Houve excud., which also appears at the bottom of all the other sheets (Fig.R-D, 160).

Fuhring, 1989, 327, under no. 36.1, commenting on the remarks in De Jong and de Groot, 1988, no. 36, states that the title of the Boyvin set must have been copied from that of Nicolaes de Bruyn, and not vice versa, indicated by the empty tablet in the Boyvin title that, in the de Bruyn set, bears the monogram of the artist.  Also, Boyvin did not engrave the title, which was probably added by the publisher, Paul de la Nouve.

Robert-Dumesnil, VIII, 1850, 73-74, 160, and 74-76, 161-170.  Duplessis, XI, 1871, 24, 3.  Georges Duplessis, Le Livre de Bijouterie de René Boyvin, d’Angers reproduit en fac-simile par M. Amand-Durand (11 plates), Paris, Rapilly, 1876.  Jessen, 1920, 71.  Levron, 1941, 79-80, 267-286.  Byrne, 1981, 94, no. 111.

COLLECTIONS: Amsterdam (De Jong and de Groot, 1988, no. 36).  Berlin, Kunstbibliothek, OS 765.  New York, 30.67.4.  Paris, Ed 3, in-folio and Le.47,

The designs of these prints have never been attributed to Rosso; their style appears to be Thiry’s, as noted by Acton, in French Renaissance, 1994, 309, under no. 74.  They are mentioned here because they could reflect lost jewelry designs that Rosso may have made.

The inscription on the plates refers to their Flemish publisher who, according to Adhémar (1959, 471), established himself in Paris around 1580.