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L.57 Cartoon for a Panel Painting for the “Congregazione Del Capitolo” in Paris where Rosso was a Canon

1537-1538

Vasari, 1550, 804, in the “Life” of Rosso: “Fece ancora un cartone per fare una tavola alla Congregazione del capitolo, dove era canonico,…”  This passage appears only in the first edition of Vasari’s Lives at the very end of the short account of the works Rosso did in France.  A few lines earlier Vasari reported (804) that, after Rosso had done many works for Francis I, the king “gli donò un canonicato della Santa Cappella della Madonna di Parigi.”  This information is repeated in the second edition (Vasari, 1568, II, 210; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 169).  Vasari would appear to have conflated here two canonicates that Rosso held, one at Sainte Chapelle, obtained on 14 August 1532 (DOC.25), the other at Notre Dame, received on 26 September 1537 (DOCS.31-34).  It is not clear that Vasari means one of these when he says Rosso was a canon of the “Congregazione del capitolo.”  This could be a reference to a third canonicate, for which documentary evidence has not yet been located.  But it is more likely that Vasari had heard of only two canonicates and somewhat confused the information he received about them or received confusing information in the first place.  It is also likely that the canonicate that Vasari related to the cartoon is that of Notre Dame because his other reference to a canonicate seems to refer more specifically to Sainte Chapelle.  If the cartoon was made for the former then it dates after 26 September 1537; if for Sainte Chapelle then it could have been done at any time after 14 August 1532.  One might, however, conjecture that, in as much as this cartoon survived, it was done late in Rosso’s life and the painting that was to be made from it was either not begun or was incomplete when Rosso died in November of 1540.

Kusenberg, 1931, 202, n. 238, mentioned this cartoon as having been made for Sainte Chapelle.  Béguin, Revue du Louvre, 1969, 143, 146, n. 15, suggested that this cartoon might have been for the lost painting of St. Michael that Vasari said Rosso executed in France.  But this is unlikely as there is no reason why its cartoon should have been kept after the painting was done (see L.61).  What is possible is that the unspecified cartoon is to be identified with that of the Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl mentioned by Vasari in 1568 as one of two cartoons found in Rosso’s house after his death (L.58), without, however, saying for what location a painting made from it was intended.  (The other cartoon was of Leda and the Swan; see D.74).  This is a reasonable supposition that eliminates the need to recognize a third cartoon of an unknown subject.  The Tiburtine Sibyl showing Augustus the Virgin and Child would have been a most appropriate subject for Notre Dame.  In that cartoon also appeared, according to Vasari, Francis I, the Queen, together with their guards and a group of people, also suggesting a scene that could have been planned for an altar in the cathedral of Paris.  This cartoon may have been made late in 1537 or early in 1538 (see L.54-L.56).  It cannot be known that Vasari, having heard of the cartoon, could have been certain that it was for a “tavola” rather than a wall painting.