D.53 (COPY) Education of Achilles

D.53 (COPY) Education of Achilles

For the Gallery of Francis I, Fontainebleau

c. 1531/1532-1534

Paris, Ensba, no. 386 (formerly 2842).


Pen and ink and wash, 32.2 x 44.8 (oval); laid down on a Mariette mount, wm?.  Creased twice down the center.  Inscribed in ink on the mount: Rubeus Fior. [in a cartouche] and Educationem Achillis, Francesco I. jubente, in porticu Regiae Fontisbellaguei depicturus, delineabat., and on the verso of the mount (from Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, see below): Udney’s date 1803; Esdaile mark; p.88, no 101; formerly in Mariette’s coll.on Rosso; (Fiorentino) né vers la fin du XVe siècle; coll. P. J. Mariette.

PROVENANCE: P. J. Mariette (Lugt 1852); E. Lelli?  (Lugt 2852, Supplément); Robert Udny (Lugt 2248); E. Esdaile (Lugt 2617, preceded by the designation: IOX); A. Ch. H. His del la Salle (Lugt 1332 or 1333); bequeathed to the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878.


Mariette, letter of 24 May 1760, Paris, to Giovanni Bottari, in Rome (Giovanni Bottari, Raccolta di lettere sulla pittura scultura ed architettura, Rome, IV, 1764, 363-364, and IV, 1822, 533, letter no. CCXXIII) stated that he acquired the drawing that day, and considered it as Rosso’s for his picture in the Gallery of Francis I, the subject being the centaur Chiron instructing Achilles.

Bassan (Mariette sale), 1775, under no. 677, as Rosso.

Müntz, 1889, 173, as Rosso, for his painting at Fontainebleau.

Eugène Müntz, “Le Musée de École des Beaux-Arts, IV, Les dessins de maîtres,” GdB-A, 3rd period, V, 1, 1891, 46, as Rosso, as a study for his Fontainebleau fresco.

Herbet, V, 1902 (1969, 233), under no. 37, as Rosso.

Dimier, 1904, 78, and Pl., as Rosso.

Dimier, 1905, 20, as Rosso.

Notice, Fontainebleau, 1921, no. 125, as Rosso.

Kauffman, 1923, 196, Fig. 7, as Rosso.

Dimier, Histoire, 1925, 50, Pl. XXXIV, as Rosso.

Dimier, 1928, 9, as Rosso.

Kusenberg, 1931, 87, 137, 144, no. 61, Pl. LII, as Rosso, 1530-1536, for his fresco at Fontainebleau.

Kusenberg, ZfBK, 1931-1932, 86-87, as Rosso.

Art italien, 1935, no. 131, as Rosso.

Hans Kauffman, Donatello, Berlin, 1936, 216, n. 189, as Rosso.

Berenson, 1938, no. 2458A, as Rosso’s study for his fresco at Fontainebleau.

Paul S. Wingert, “The Funerary Urn of Francis I,” AB, XXI, 1939, 388, n. 31, as Rosso, for his Fontainebleau picture.

Kusenberg, 1939, 41, as a copy by Léonard Thiry of Rosso’s fresco at Fontainebleau.

Dimier, 1942, 22, 87, and Pl. 50, as Rosso.

Barocchi, 1950, 108, Fig. 96, as Thiry after Rosso’s fresco.

Bologna and Causa, 1952, 61, as Thiry and related to Rosso’s fresco.

Triomphe du Manièrisme, 1955, 145, no. 258, as Thiry after Rosso’s fresco.

Janson, 1957, II, 129, as Rosso.

Panofsky, 1958, 161, Fig. 46, 174, n. 90, as Thiry.

Béguin, 1960, 42, as Thiry.

Berenson, 1961, no. 2458A, as Rosso.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 249-250, II, Bk. II, 391-395, Bk. III, Fig. 122, as a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso of late 1533 or early 1534 for his fresco at Fontainebleau, probably first designed in an oval format.

Carroll, 1966, 173-174, n. 28, as a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso, the oval shape of which may indicate that the lost original drawing was made before any work in the gallery itself was begun.  Its shape may also indicate that in a first scheme the large frescoes in the gallery were to alternate oval and rectangular.

Béguin, Mariette, 1967, under no. 177.

Berckenhagen, 1968, 11, n. 10, as Thiry.

Béguin, EdF, 1972, 197, Fig., 198, no. 221, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 90, Fig. 61, II, 67, no. 221, as Thiry’s copy of Rosso’s fresco.

Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 127, as Thiry, and undoubtedly a copy of a lost first project by Rosso for his fresco at Fontainebleau.

Miles, 1973, 32, n. 5, as “after Rosso,” its line too fragmentary and too tentative for Thiry.

Lévêque, 1984, 242, Fig., as Thiry after Rosso’s fresco.

Carroll, 1987, 226, n. 7.

Béguin, 1988 (1989), 10, Fig. 3, as by Thiry after Rosso’s fresco.

Béguin, 1989, 837, as by Thiry.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 92-95, 93, Fig., no. 32, as by Thiry after a drawing by Rosso, the architecture influenced by Donatello’s relief in Lille.

Béguin, 1995, 192, as Thiry, who seems to have become a sort of specialist in copying Rosso.

The drawing is discussed as a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso for an early version of his Education of Achilles in the Gallery of Francis I in P.22, II N.  There it is pointed out how the drawing differs from the fresco in ways that make it clear that the copy was not made from the painting: in the drawing the figure of Achilles is nude in the three scenes at the right, the figures in the swimming and spearing scenes are considerably smaller and the swimming scene is farther to the right, the posts enclosing the terrace at the left are not decorated, there is a man in the doorway at the upper right, the youth standing on the balcony is nude, and some of the figures under the portico seem not to be clothed.  The oval shape of the drawing and the relationships of its composition to that format indicate that Rosso originally conceived the fresco of this scene in this shape.  An early conception of the gallery’s decorations with some horizontal oval scenes on the north and south walls other than the Nymph of Fontainebleau, or the Danaë which eventually found its place in the center of the south wall, must have been planned and then abandoned before the stucco workers began to work in the gallery, probably in 1534.  The oval Education of Achilles must, consequently, also date from before this moment.  As Rosso may have commenced his designs for the gallery as early as c. 1531/1532, the lost original drawing must date between then and 1534 (see P.22).

The penmanship of the drawing is too feathery to be Rosso’s but it does imitate his as one sees it in his Pandora and Her Box (Fig.D.67a) and, somewhat more studied, in his earlier Throne of Solomon (Fig.D.34).  The lost original may have been less freely drawn than the former and yet not quite so precisely executed as the latter, in which case its penmanship may have been closer to that of the Petrarch drawing at Christ Church (Fig.D.47b).  It is probable that the pen was handled much as one sees it recorded in the copies of the lost drawing of the early version of the Sacrifice, especially as seen in the Ensba and Louvre copies (Fig.D.50B and Fig.D.50Ca).

The copy is weakest, it would seem, in its reflection of the handling of the washes in the lost original.  On the figures, the washes are very indecisively placed, so that a sense of any real form that Rosso’s washes might have conveyed is only vaguely realized.  Such lack of purpose is not at all the case in the Pandora drawing, where the washes are quite dramatically descriptive of form, or in the Throne of Solomon, where they are set down with careful deliberation.  This raises the problem of whether the lost original was so simply drawn merely with pen and ink and wash on white paper.  As indicated by two of the copies of the lost drawing for the early version of the Sacrifice, the copyist of the Education of Achilles may have worked from a drawing that also had white highlights and a dark ground.  This would account for the penmanship of the copy looking so Rossoesque and the shading not.  Instead of reproducing the full technique of Rosso’s drawing, the copyist may have simply copied the pen lines of the original on white paper and then approximated the tonal character of the original with a few insecurely placed washes.  Having not begun with a dark ground, he could never achieve the extensive range of values of Rosso’s drawing, the highest tonal level of which would have been created by white highlights.  One cannot insist that the copyist worked from a drawing having the appearance of the Albertina Annunciation (Fig.D.43a) and the Petrarch drawing, but it seems likely that he did.

The attribution of the Achilles drawing to Leonard Thiry, first made by Kusenberg, has been generally accepted, but not by Miles in 1973.  The feathery penmanship and vaguely applied washes of the copy do, however, bear a resemblance to those of the Design for a Covered Cup signed Leonard Thierry in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Fig.RD.22).  Since the publication of Brugerolles and Guillet on Thiry (1994, 92-128, nos. 32-41, but including other drawings by Thiry as well), our knowledge of this artist as a draughtsman has been significantly enlarged.  Beginning as an assistant to Primaticcio and Rosso at Fontainebleau, and the copyist of drawings by the latter, including, in addition to the Education of Achilles, the Allegory of Deceit (Fig.D.56), he developed as a kind of droll pastischer of Rosso’s style, supplying designs for engravings generally attributed to Boyvin but that are possibly by Milan (see RE.5; RE.6; RE.8; RE.9; RE.11, 1-9; RE.13, 1-12; RE.14).  As he seems to have left France around 1545, many of these drawings may have been done specifically for Milan, whose activity as an engraver of Rosso’s designs may have begun before Rosso died in November of 1540 (E.102-105, as Milan, but also those prints after Rosso under Boyvin, E.7-17, which do not carry his initial).  Thiry may have stepped in to fill the need for Rossoesque inventions immediately after Rosso’s death.  Boyvin first appears on the scene in Paris in 1549, working under Milan, who was still alive in 1554.