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P.22 III North: Revenge of Nauplius

P.22 III North: The Revenge of Nauplius

The central fresco: c. 1.67 x c. 2.53 m.

Fig.P.22, III N a whole wall
Fig.P.22, III N b bw, whole wall

The appearance of the flanking decoration of this wall before the mid-nineteenth century restoration of the gallery is recorded in two drawings, by Percier and Viollet-le-Duc (see below).  Originally beneath the formerly lower placed beams at the upper left and right, just below where there are now small rectangular stucco plaques, there was at the left a man’s head with wings (in Percier’s drawing) and at the right a baby’s head with wings (Viollet-le Duc drawing).  The small flat area below the man’s head was blank and painted yellow when Percier made his drawing and it might be assumed that the same was the case at the other side of the wall; pairs of putti painted in oil were placed there in the nineteenth century.  It is not known what originally was in each area at the bottom of the wall where there is now a painted putto also in oil done in the nineteenth century.  There is noted in Percier’s drawing, where this area at the left is given a bluish wash, that what was there was effaced, indicating perhaps that originally something was depicted here and in the matching area at the right.  The other drawing shows the area at the right with striations as though its painted surface had deteriorated.  Pressouyre, “Restaurations,” 1972, 34, thought it unlikely that the upper areas were originally empty, and Dan, 1642, 92, said these areas, meaning, it would seem, those at the top and the bottom, showed infants painted on a gold ground.  These paintings may have crumbled because of their ground.  It is possible that the existing putti are there because the nineteenth century restorer read Dan.

PREPARATORY DRAWING: D.59 (COPY).  Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, D.3116.  The Revenge of Nauplius.  This precisely executed pen and ink line drawing is a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso with the probable washes, and perhaps also highlights, eliminated.  In the drawing the flying hair of some of the figures and the design of the prows of some of the ships are different from what appears in the fresco. I n the drawing Nauplius’s genitals are rather dramatically exposed, while they are covered by drapery in the painting.  The exposure of the genitals could have been intended to emphasize the fact of the loss of his heir, the issue of Nauplius’s loins, and hence also make more obvious the dynastic implications of the decoration of this wall.  Apropos of the interpretation of this scene, as considered in Carroll, 1987, 238-241, only one beacon tower is shown lit in the drawing.

PRINTS: E.59.  Du Cerceau, Design for the Decoration of a Cup or Bowl.  The exposure of Nauplius’s genitals in this print indicates that it was derived from Rosso’s lost drawing, or a copy of it, such as that at Besançon (D.59), and not from Fantuzzi’s print of the Revenge of Nauplius.

E.71.  Fantuzzi, The Revenge of Nauplius.  This etching is in reverse of the fresco and the drawing in Besançon; it is not, however, directly based on either of them.  Nauplius’s genitals are covered in the print but his hair is long and blowing back as in the drawing and not tightly curled as in the fresco.  The prows of the ships are also different from those in the drawing and painting, and there are a variety of other small differences as well.  But in one respect the print is significantly unlike the fresco and the drawing.  In the latter two depictions the permanent lighthouse of the port is placed in the middle of the water and there is nothing farther back but the distant horizon of the sea.  In the etching it is set on rocks beyond the harbor and has a range of high rocks and mountains behind it.  There are also a large number of ragged rocks in the foreground of the etching that do not appear in the drawing or fresco.  So crowded is the etching with landscape forms that the sea or harbor is barely visible.

As many details in the print, such as bald heads, blowing hair and the anatomical drawing of the figures, suggest that it is based on a lost drawing by Rosso, the place of that drawing within the sequence of compositions for this scene has to be determined.  The composition of the etching must come first.  The Besançon drawing shows a clarified scene with rocks removed, the harbor opened-up, the permanent lighthouse placed in the water, and the difference between the open sea and harbor and the dangerous rocks made more evident.  Wishing to be more explicit, Rosso also exposed Nauplius’s genitals.  The wooden lighthouse built by Nauplius is also made bigger.  A cartoon would have followed from the original of this drawing to produce the scene executed in the gallery.  Then Nauplius’s genitals were covered up again, and his hair was made short and curly.  Furthermore, the permanent lighthouse became smaller and apparently farther back.  Because of this change, the spaciousness of the expanse of sea in the middle distance looks even greater in the fresco than in the drawing in Besançon.

COPIES, DRAWINGS: Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, inv. no. AE 553.  The Revenge of Nauplius (Fig.P.22Copy, Darmstadt).  Red chalk, 21.2 x 33.  LITERATURE: R. Schoch, Peter Paul Rubens und sein Kreis. Zeichungen aus der Graphischen Sammlung des Heissischen Landesmuseums, Darmstadt, 1977, 30, no. 42, as by Van Thulden.  Wood, 1990, 9, 16, Fig.13, 46, n. 41, as by Abraham van Diepenbeeck.  Alain Roy, in Theodoor van Thulden, 1991, 52, Fig.13, 53, as by Van Thulden.  Copy of the fresco.

Paris, Louvre, Inv. 1596.  The Revenge of Nauplius (Fig.P.22Copy, Paris 1596).  Pen and ink and wash, heightened with white (oxidized), 20.8 x 30.5.  LITERATURE: Kusenberg, 1931, 149, no. 19, as a copy of Rosso’s fresco. Barocchi, 1950, 141, as a copy of the fresco.  Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 129, after the fresco.  Wilson-Chevalier, 1982, 16, n. 43, as an anonymous copy after Rosso’s fresco.  Scailliérez, 1992, 132, n. 2, under no. 57, as a copy of Rosso’s composition.  Copy of the fresco and probably of the seventeenth century.

Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Institute, ms. 1015, Vol. 2, fol. 4, lower left sketch.  Charles Percier, Copy of the left side of the wall.  Watercolor.  “Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 33, Fig. 48, 34, 43, n. 46 (Fig.Percier drawing 1).  The drawing of around 1840 shows the stuccoes before the elevation of the beam and the destruction of the stucco head of a man with wings immediately beneath it.  In the area beneath this head is written: jaune; in the area below the niche is written: efacé.

Geneviève Viollet-le-Duc Collection.  Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Copy of the right side of the wall (Fig.Viollet-le-Duc drawing 1).  Drawing done in 1834.  Lossky, 1970, 203-208, Fig. 5.  Lossky, “Cinq dessins,” 1970, 192-193, Pl. XX, 2.  The drawing shows the stuccoes before the elevation of the beam and the destruction of the putto’s head with wings and a small hanging element in stucco immediately under the beam.  Beneath this head the small wall area is blank; the small area below the niche is also without any configuration although it contains striations that resemble marble veining but which could instead show scraped plaster.

COPIES, PRINTS: E.89.  Antoine Garnier, The Revenge of Nauplius.  This seventeenth century engraving, in reverse of Rosso’s painting, is derived from the fresco with some omissions, such as the fire pot atop the wooden lighthouse and some minor changes such as the long blowing hair of the oarsman.  However, it does not appear to be based on the copy of the fresco in the Louvre (see above).

Wilson-Chevalier, 1982, 8, 10, Fig. 6, 12, noted the use of figures of Rosso’s composition in the scene of Les Enfers, in Michel de Marolles’s Les Tableaux du Temples des Muses, Paris, 1655, after a drawing by Van Diepenbeck.