E.105 Three Fates, Nude

E.105 Milan, Three Fates, Nude

Engraving by Pierre Milan, 24.6 x 16.6 L (New York).

Fig.E.105 (London)

Robert-Dumesnil, VIII, 1850, 33, 31, as Boyvin.  Le Blanc, 1854-1890, I, 507, 34, as Boyvin after Rosso.  Destailleur, 1895, 277, no. 1150.  Levron, 1941, 75, 179, as Milan (Levron, Pl. LXXIX, Fig. 113, is of an impression in Paris of the anonymous copy with text, see below).  Zerner, 1969, P.M.2 (Vienna), as Milan.

COLLECTIONS: Florence, 7933ss.  Florence, Marucelliana, Vol. XXXII, no. 61 (pieces missing from top).  London, 1850-6-12-106 (at lower right, in pencil: Duy [?]).  New York, 32.92.27(9).  Paris, Ed 3 (stamped at lower right: D.3159); SNR.  Paris, Ensba.  Vienna, F.I.3, p.14 upper right, no. 28.


Kusenberg, 1931, 161, as Boyvin after Rosso.

Linzeler, 1932, 171, as Boyvin.

Metman, 1941, 206, 211-213, as Milan and engraved by 1545; in 1557 Claude Bernard had 240 impressions of it.

Barocchi, 1950, 253, and Fig. 232 (Paris, SNR), as Boyvin after Rosso, the central Fate resembling the female figure in stucco at the right of the Venus and Minerva fresco in the Gallery of Francis I.

Petrucci, 1964, 104, Pl. 43, as by an anonymous Italian of the School of Fontainebleau, after Rosso.

Oberhuber, 1966, 177-178, no. 298 (Vienna), as Milan after Rosso.

Zerner, 1969, XXXV-XXXVI, as perhaps to be identified as the Three Graces that Van Mander says Pieter de la Cuffle engraved in Paris after Rosso.

Thirion, 1971, 43-44, Fig. 35 (Paris, SNR), as Milan.

Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 323, no. 420, as after Rosso, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 86, Fig. 56 (London), II, 97, no. 420.

Carroll, 1975, 25, 26, Fig. 10, as after a late work by Rosso.

L’art maniériste. Formes et symboles 1520-1620, Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1978, no. 98 (from Grivel, in Ronsard, 1985).

Carroll, 1978, 34, 36, Fig. 18 (Florence), 42, 45.

Borea, 1979, 403, Fig. 277 (Florence, Marucelliana), c. 1550.

Borea, 1980, 263, no. 685 (Vienna), as Milan.

Darragon, 1983, 12.

Martine Vasselin, in Raphael et l’art francais, 1983, 213, no. 213, 374, Fig. 220, as influenced by Raphael’s fresco of Amor and the Three Graces in the Farnesina and Marcantonio’s related engraving.

Lévêque, 1984, 147, 149, Fig. (Paris, Ensba).

K. Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 171-172, no. 113 (Paris, Ed 3), as Milan after Rosso.

Marianne Grivel, in Ronsard, 1985, 82-83, no. 95, with Fig. (Paris, Ed 3).1

Béguin, in Delay, 1987, 69, Pl. (Paris), 70, 202, seen also as the Graces and assimilating love and death.

Carroll, 1987, 11, 43, 336-339, no. 105, with Fig. (London).

Franklin, 1988, 326, the character of Rosso’s original drawing can only be guessed at.

Béguin, 1989, 835, 836, Fig. 33 (London).

Boorsch, 1989, 9, stated that Van Mander did not mention an engraving of the Three Graces by Pieter de la Cuffle, but a print of “de dry Spinsters;” it was Hymans in the French edition of 1848 who made the error in translation [Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck, Haarlem, 1604 (reprint: Utrecht, 1969), Fol. 226: “de dry Spinsters van Rous…”; Henri Hymans, Le livre des peintres de Carel van Mander, Paris, 1864-1865 (reprint: Amsterdam, 1979), 241: “les Trois Grâces, d’après le Rosso…”].

Mugnaini, in Rosso e Volterra, 1994, 124, 127, 156, no. 13 (Florence), discussed the image as a kind of allegory of human destiny, the exposure of Atropos’s sex making the print a pendant to Rosso’s Moses, and related to Lomazzo’s conjunction of the Hours, Fates and Graces.

Ciardi, 1994, 94, n. 110, mentions their sensuality.

“La Chronique des Arts,” GdBA, 6th pér., 125, January, 1995, 17, Fig. (Florence).


Although this engraving is not inscribed to Rosso, his authorship of its composition has never been questioned.  According to the documents published by Metman, it is most likely that this print is the one mentioned in 1557 as by Milan, showing “trois Parthe nuees,” and, in a second description, representing “l’histoire des trois déesses et fatalles, invent. de Me Raoul.”  [This phrase could refer to the Three Fates, Costume Designs, also engraved by Milan (Fig.E.104), but the use of the word “histoire” makes the nude version of this subject a more likely candidate.]  It is also very probable that it is the print wrongly described as the Three Spinners that Van Mander mentioned as having been done by Pieter de la Cuffle after Rosso, an engraver who Adhémar believed may be Pierre Milan.  Stylistically, the three women in the print, with their long proportions and their widely extended limbs, recall the figures of Europa and Philyra that flank the Royal Elephant in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22, VI N a).  The composition of the print, with the figures close to the picture plane and spread out across the picture area to its limits, resembles that of Rosso’s Pietà in the Louvre, of around 1538 (Fig.P.23a), and of his painting in Los Angeles, which may date from 1540 (Fig.P.24a).  Without doubt, the design of the engraving can be accepted as Rosso’s and from the character of its details, excepting the slightly awkwardly rendered nose of the third Fate, Lachesis, it seems very likely that the print reproduces Rosso’s lost original image very well.  That work would seem to have been done very late in Rosso’s career, between 1538 and 1540, around the same time as other works, such as the Annunciation drawing in Düsseldorf (Fig.D.83), the Judith and Holofernes drawing in Los Angeles (Fig.D.84a), and the painting in that same collection, all of which present similarly grand and comparably unusual interpretations of their themes.  According to the documents published by Metman, the Three Fates would have been engraved by Milan by 1545.

Milan could have worked directly from a drawing by Rosso (see below).  Or he could have worked from a copy of Rosso’s drawing made especially as a model for the engraver.  A picture by Rosso of this composition may also have existed (see below under COPY, PAINTING), but for practical reasons it would not have been the immediate source of the engraving or even of the model from which the print was made.  No prints of the sixteenth century can be shown to have been made directly from a painting by Rosso.  The gesture of Lachesis, who draws out the thread with the spindle held in her right hand and the distaff in her left, seems to indicate that Rosso’s composition is transcribed here in its original direction.  A counterproof of a chalk drawing by Rosso could have served Milan as his model or as the model for a drawing made from it for Milan’s use.

Franklin commented that the character of Rosso’s lost original drawing can only be guessed at.  But the three engravings by Milan and Boyvin for which Rosso’s models exist, E.16, E.17, and E.102, give evidence of the precision of the engravers’ translations.  Etchings of decorative panels and cartouches can be more freely related to their sources, although etchings of single scenes are largely faithful to Rosso’s compositions.

DRAWING: Formerly Paris, Baron Vivant.  Denon Collection.  Pérignon, Paris, 1826, I, 104, no. 248, as “Rosso: Un précieux dessin, rehaussée de blanc au pinceau, représentant les trois Parques.”  This unlocated drawing could be an autograph drawing by Rosso used by Milan for this print or for his Three Fates, Costume Designs (Fig.E.104).  Or it could be a copy of one of these prints.  It could, of course, be an entirely different composition by Rosso, or one not by him at all (Carroll, 1987, 339, n. 2, under no. 105).

COPY, PAINTING: In an inventory of the pictures in the collection of the Countess of Arundel at the time of her death in Amsterdam in 1654 there is listed: “Rosso tre sorelle fatale” (Cox, 1911, 285; and Phillips, 1911-1912, 145, n. 3).  If this picture was by Rosso it is possible that it was related to his Three Fates, Nude engraved by Pierre Milan, or, less likely perhaps, to the Three Fates, Costume Designs, also engraved by Milan (E.104).  In any case, the subject of the painting might indicate that if it was by Rosso, then it was a picture executed in France, for there is no record of his having painted nonreligious pictures in Italy.  If actually by Rosso, it would not be the picture in the Pitti Palace in Florence to which Phillips related the inventory record.

COPIES, PRINTS: E.108.  Nikolaus Solis (Fig.E.108; Vienna).  Engraving, 24.6 x 16.3 L (New York).  Inscribed at the lower left with the cipher of the engraver (Nagler, Mon., IV, 1864, 782, 2540).  Herbet, V, 1902, 83 (1969, 235), 29, as Anonymous after Boyvin’s (Milan’s) print.  COLLECTIONS: New York, 32.92.27(8).  Paris, Ed 3.  Rome, Vol. 46 H 17, no. 72254.  Vienna, F.I.3, p.14, no. 27.  LITERATURE: Destailleur, 1895, 277, under no. 1150: 4 (Brulliot, no. 2633).  Kusenberg, 1931, 161, under Robert-Dumesnil 31, 168, as Anonymous.  Linzeler, 1932, 171, Copy 2, as N. Solis.  Petrucci, 1964, 104, under no. 43.  Zerner, 1969, under P.M.2, apparently as by Sustris.  Thirion, 1971, 44, as Solis.  Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 323, under no. 420, apparently as by Sustris, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, II, 97, under no. 420.  Carroll, 1987, 339, n. 1, under no. 105.

Copy of Milan’s print, in the original direction, done to a large extent with a stippled technique.  Special differences: the bow shaped upper lip of the third Fate as well as the regular curve of the upper curl at the left of her head.

E.154.  Anonymous (Fig.E.154; Vienna).  Engraving, 27.2 (including margin below of 3.1) x 16.4 S (Vienna).  Inscribed in the margin below: DVM TERNAE IOVIS ANTE PEDES FERA PENSA SORORES / DEVOLVVNT; CAVE NE TEMPVS INANE FLVAT• (The V of CAVE changed from an N).  Robert-Dumesnil, VIII, 1850, 33, under no. 31.  Herbet, V, 1902, 83 (1969, 235), 29.  COLLECTIONS: Cambridge, Fitzwilliam, Vol. I.O.P., p.49, lower left.  Paris, Ba 12; Ed 3.  Vienna, H.B.IV, p.95, no. 101.  LITERATURE: Kusenberg, 1931, 161, under Robert-Dumesnil 31, and 168.  Linzeler, 1932, 171, Copy 1.  Levron, 1941, Pl. LXXIX (wrongly as Milan’s engraving).  Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 323, under no. 420, as possibly the print mentioned by Van Mander, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, II, 97, under no. 420.  Borea, 1980, 263, under no. 685, as Anonymous.  Carroll, 1987, 339, n. 1, under no. 105.

In the same direction as Milan’s print.  The details of the copy suggest that it was made directly from the original engraving.  Zerner’s comment that it could be the print mentioned by Van Mander would mean that Pieter de la Cuffle is not to be identified with Pierre Milan.  This problem has yet to be clarified.

E.155.  Anonymous (Fig.E.155; Vienna).  Engraving, 23.9 x 16.5 S.  COLLECTION: Vienna, H.B.IV, p.95, no. 102.  LITERATURE: Carroll, 1987, 339, n. 1, under no. 105.

In reverse of Milan’s print, but clearly made from it, as the details indicate.  This engraving could just possibly be the one inventoried in Antonio Lafréry’s shop in Rome in 1572 as “le tre grazie del Rosso,” misidentifying the subject as did Van Mander (see Ehrle, 1908, 57).  This suggestion is made only because the image is in reverse of the others, which confers upon it a certain distinction from the other two copies in the original direction.

PARTIAL COPY, PRINT: Boyvin?, Caritas Romana (Cimon and Pero, or Mycon and Xanthippe) (Fig.E.105, Copy, Caritas; Vienna).  Engraving, 13.9 x 9.3 P (Paris, Arsenal).  Robert-Dumesnil, VIII, 1850, 21, 11, as Boyvin after Rosso.  Le Blanc, 1854-1890, I, 507, 184, as Boyvin after Rosso.  Herbet, III, 1899, 35 (1969, 123), under Robert-Dumesnil 11, as Boyvin and suggesting that it is the composition of the relief under Rosso’s Cleobis and Biton in the Gallery of Francis I.  COLLECTIONS: Paris, Arsenal, Vol. 168(2), no. 64 (see Schéfer below).  Vienna, F.I.3, p.4, no. 8.  LITERATURE: Schéfer, 1894-1929, col. 555, no. 64, as Boyvin after Rosso.  Kusenberg, 1931, 160, as Boyvin.  Levron, 1941, 74, 167, as shop of Boyvin.  Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 135.  All repeat Herbet’s suggestion.  Massari, 1983, 35, under nos. 5a and 5b, wrongly as related to E.143.  Carroll, 1987, 339, n. 1, under no. 105.

This vertical composition of two figures is not related to the horizontal stucco relief of the same subject but with several more figures by Rosso in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22, V S c).  Nor is it related to that section of this relief showing this episode.  The female figure is derived from the seated Fate seen from the back in Rosso’s Three Fates, Nude engraved by Pierre Milan, in the same direction but with the head turned to the right, the left arm not visible, and with drapery over the thigh.  It could, of course, be derived from one of the copies of this print, including the version in reverse.  In any case, the simplicity of the drawing and modeling of the figure and of the composition as a whole, as well as its lack of gravity, suggest that it is not by Rosso re-using one of his own figures but rather very possibly by Thiry.  His style, as shown by the Story of Jason prints designed by him and engraved by Boyvin (RE.15), shows the same kind of reduction of Rosso’s style.  Boyvin’s authorship of the print is not certain, nor need it have been produced in his shop.

COPY, MAJOLICA: Milan, Musei del Castello, M 216.  Orazio Fontana, or shop, wine cooler, 50 diameter.  LITERATURE: Conti, Giovanni, L’arte della maiolica in Italia, Busto Arsizio, 1973, Color Fig. 237.  Conti, Giovanni, La maiolica in Italia, Busto Arsizio, 1992, Fig. 288.  Maiolica e Incisione, 1992, 82-83, no. 23.  The lower half of the scene of sea divinities shows the three Fates transformed into nereids.

COPY, RELIEF: Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs, P.E.1273.  Carved panel.  Walnut, 33 x 32.  LITERATURE: Thirion, 1971, 43, Fig. 37, 44.  Thirion, in EdF, 1972, 427, no. 594, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 87, Fig. 57, II, 127, no. 594, both with bibliography.  Raggio, 1974, 74.  Panel from a dresser or a cabinet that shows the scene in the direction of the original print with the surrounding areas filled with plants.

COPY, STAINED GLASS WINDOW: Chantilly, Musée Condé.  LITERATURE: Kusenberg, 1931, 119-120.  Thirion, 1971, 43, Fig. 36, 44, with bibliography.  Also mentioned by Thirion, in EdF, 1972, 427, under no. 594, and in Fontainebleau, 1973, II, 127, under no. 594.  Vasselin, 1983 (see above).  Leproux, 1988, 41.  The scene, in a window from the château at Écouen, is in the direction of Milan’s print and appears as a background detail of an episode of the story of Psyche.


1 Grivel states that in the sixteenth century nudity was a proof of demonic character, and that in Rosso’s image these “filandières fatales” are perceived as sorcerers, as stated in S. Matthews-Grieco, Mythes et iconographie de la femme dans l’estampe du XVIe siècle français: images d’un univers mental, Thèse de doctorat de 3e cycle, Paris, École des Hautes Études en Sciences sociales, 1992, 3 vols.