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P.22 East Wall

Cross-section of the gallery showing the East Wall

Fig.d’Orbay drawing a detail
Fig.d’Orbay drawing b whole
Fig.EastWall, c
Fig.Northeast, d bw, northeast corner
Fig.Southeast, e bw, southeast corner

Rosso’s upright oval oil painting of Bacchus, Venus, and Cupid, that occupied the center of this wall was removed and apparently destroyed in 1701.1  The other decoration was totally destroyed and replaced in or shortly after 1757 at which time the alignment of the wall was changed to square it with the north and south walls (Fig.EastWall, c; Fig.Northeast, d; Fig.Southeast, e).2  The stuccoes at the east end of the north and south walls were damaged and remade.  Other slight changes were made in 1784 and 1785; the plaster bust of Francis I was made in 1836 (Herbet, 1987, 181-183).

A drawing by d’Orbay of 1682 (see below) gives a view of the original East Wall.  The lost oval painting measured c. 2.15-2.30 m. high.3  Because it is just possible that Rosso’s composition of the Contest of Athena and Poseidon may have had a place on this wall the prints of this scene and a drawing related to it are listed below.

PREPARATORY DRAWING: D.57 (COPY).  Paris, Ensba, no. 1626 verso.  Design for the stucco frame of an oval picture (D.57).  This pen and ink and wash drawing shows, with variations, the center of the East Wall as it appears in d’Orbay’s drawing (see below).  The schematic rendering of the entablatures is the kind of architectural abbreviation that appears in Rosso’s drawings.  In d’Orbay’s drawing the proportions of this section of the East Wall are slightly different and a full entablature is placed higher and fully across the top with the two corner masks and the central lion’s head placed above it.  The supporting figures appear to have been identical in the gallery and not different as they are in the drawing.  The drawing, too coarse to be an autograph drawing by Rosso, seems to be a copy of a lost drawing by him.  Its design was changed in the gallery primarily because of a miscalculation of the height of this section of the decoration.

PRINTS: E.67.  Fantuzzi, Frame (E.67).  This etching shows approximately the same composition as that of the copy of the lost drawing (see above) with the male and female figures reversed.  There are a few differences: the entablatures are finished, the motifs on the blocks beneath the entablatures are different, the volutes at the top and bottom are larger, and there is a basket of fruit on the lion’s head above.  The standing figures are also described differently; both have pillows on their heads and act as supports to the architecture above; the woman holds or presses her breasts and has a lion at her feet; the man has a finger over his lips and with the other hand points to the center blank framed area; there is an urn at his feet.  On the block beneath the woman is a shield in front of crossed torches; beneath the man is an eagle holding a thunderbolt in its beak.  The woman would seem to be Opis although the motif beneath her is not associated with this goddess.  If the urn at the man’s feet is a wine vessel or pitcher he could be identified with Bacchus.  But beneath him is the eagle and thunderbolt of Zeus.  These details do not appear in d’Orbay’s drawing except possibly the pillows on the figures’ heads.  But these pillows, and other details, suggest that Fantuzzi was working from a second drawing by Rosso other than the one represented by the copy in the Ensba.

One of Du Cerceau’s Petits Cartouches (E.57,11) is copied from this etching by Fantuzzi.

E.56,3.  Du Cerceau, Frame (E.56,3).  This etching is related, with variations, to the panel at the right as it appears in d’Orbay’s drawing (see above) or to the left panel if the etching is considered reversed.  However, the print shows two putti seated on top of the central round area that do not appear in the drawing.  The etching could have been based on a lost drawing by Rosso.  But the print cannot be considered a wholly faithful transcription of that drawing as Du Cerceau’s prints in general tend to exhibit a rather free attitude toward their sources.  Nevertheless, the etching does seem to give evidence of a lost study that may have been slightly different from what was executed in the gallery.  It is, of course, possible, that the etching is based on a lost print by Fantuzzi, or someone else, which in turn goes back to a lost drawing.

One of Du Cerceau’s Petits Cartouches (E.57,6) seems derived from this larger etching by him.

DRAWING, COPY: Paris, Archives nationales, Departement des Cartes et Plans, Versement d’architecture, album 60, plan X, elevation and cross-section at the top, François d’Orbay, Cross-section of the gallery showing the east wall, pen and ink and wash (Fig.d’Orbay drawing a; Fig.d’Orbay drawing b).  According to Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 15, the drawing was done in 1682.  Laprade, 1960, 236-240, spoke of d’Orbay’s work at Fontainebleau as occupying especially the years 1676-1682.  McAllister Johnson, 1984, 134, Fig. 1, gave the date of the drawing as 1676; Bottineau, 1962, 21, n. 28, gave 1682.  Béguin, 1989, 830, Fig. 21, 831, as 1682.

Contest of Athena and Poseidon

It is possible that Rosso’s Contest of Athena and Poseidon, known from a partial copy of a lost drawing by Rosso and from prints by Fantuzzi and Boyvin (see below) may have had a place on the East Wall (see Carroll, 1987, 302-303).  Boyvin’s engraving was used as the model for the nineteenth century painting over the door in the West Wall, but the scene originally had no place on this wall.  The Panofskys (1958, 120, 176, n. 112) thought that this scene might have been designed in relation to the ex utrogue Caesar ideal of Francis I as shown in the Enlightenment of Francis I (L’Ignorance chassée).  But the victory of Athena over Poseidon might be more closely related to the Venus and Minerva and therefore might have been used for one of the horizontal  (stucco?) scenes – the left one, probably – above one of the circular (painted?) scenes on the East Wall.  Here it could have been seen in conjunction with the nearest large fresco on the north wall, the Venus and Minerva.  The horizontal areas in d’Orbay’s drawing look a little longer than needed for the scene as represented by Fantuzzi’s etching and perhaps also for the scene in the slightly longer engraving by Boyvin.  But d’Orbay’s drawing could be wrong here or Rosso’s scene, when executed in the gallery, could have been slightly altered to fit the area to receive it, as was done with the relief of Cimon and Pero under the Cleobis and Biton (see under V S).  The style of the Contest of Athena and Poseidon suggests a date around 1536, about the same time as Rosso’s Pandora and Her Box drawing (D.67).

PREPARATORY DRAWING: D.66 (COPY).  Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Ed.3 (D.66).  This drawing seems to be a copy of the left end of a lost drawing by Rosso showing Poseidon, the rearing horse, and the river goddess and tritons.

VARIATION, DRAWING: See under D.66.  Paris, Louvre, Inv. no. 8738 (Fig.Paris, 8738).  This drawing is a free adaptation of Rosso’s composition based apparently upon the prints by Fantuzzi and Boyvin, and/or from a third source that showed details of both.  The drawing is in the same direction as these prints, and hence in reverse of the copy of the lost drawing by Rosso (see above).  But the urn behind the reclining river god in the Louvre drawing has almost the same shape as the one in the copy making it seem possible that the draughtsman of the Louvre drawing also knew Rosso’s lost drawing.

PRINTS: E.78.  Fantuzzi, (E.78). This etching seems to have been derived from a lost drawing by Rosso partially preserved by a copy (D.66) showing the scene in reverse as the principle gestures of the main figures are made with the left arm (see also below).

E.13.  Boyvin, (E.13). This engraving is in the same direction as Fantuzzi’s etching but is slightly longer at the left and lower at the top.  Two columns with high bases are visible behind Mercury and almost the entire body of Victory is seen above.  There is no hill behind Athena.  Victory’s crown is merely a schematic band and the architecture at the right has unmodulated cornices, details that characterize some of Rosso’s drawings.  At the far right there is an armless bald statue in a niche.  Unlike Fantuzzi’s etching the engraving shows water at the lower right.  There are also other small differences in detail.  It is likely that Boyvin’s print goes back to another drawing by Rosso earlier than the one used by Fantuzzi that was apparently more finished.  Boyvin’s print shows water at the lower right which the engraver could have added to emphasize the identity of Poseidon although the scene shows his gift of the horse and not of sea water.  Fantuzzi’s etching shows the cast shadows of Athena’s spear and Poseidon’s fork which do not appear in Boyvin’s print.  Details of this print are related to those in the drawing in the Louvre that shows a variation of this scene (see above).  For example, the wreath held by Victory is a simple band in both.  But the Triton at the far right in the engraving has spikes of some kind in his hair that are not found in Fantuzzi’s etching nor in the partial copy of the lost drawing by Rosso (see above).  That copy and Fantuzzi’s etching also show more hair blowing behind Poseidon’s face than appears in Boyvin’s engraving.


1See Béguin, 1969, 831.  As the painting does not appear in d’Orbay’s drawing of 1682 (on which see below), it is possible that it was destroyed by that time.  On a painting on canvas of Bacchus, Venus, and Cupid, in the Musée d’Histoire et d’Art in Luxembourg that Béguin related to Rosso’s lost painting, see RP.17.

2 See Pressouyre, “Cadre architecutural,” 1972, 15, and Bottineau, 1962, 85, n. 105, and 160, Doc. 70.

3 The somewhat faulty proportions of d’Orbay’s drawing do not make it possible to measure accurately the void where the painting would have been.  The painting extended from the top of the wood paneling to approximately the upper level of the large frescoes in the gallery, a distance, calculated from the drawing, that is about 2.17 m.  Its replacement, Boulogne le Jeune’s Flora and Zephyr, still at Fontainebleau, measures 230 x 170 or 179 (see Béguin, 1969, 830, Fig. 20, 831), where the painting is dated 1702; see also Amédée de Caix de Saint-Aymour, Le Boullongne, Paris, 1919, 264, no. 375, as of 1700.