L.38 Design for the Frame of Michelangelo’s Leda


In Antonio Mini’s letter of 1532 written probably in Paris and sent to Francesco Tibaldi in Lyons (DOC.21), he discussed Michelangelo’s Leda that he had brought to France and a copy that had been made of it (see D.74).  In this context he wrote: “E’ Roso far fare unno adornamento, h’è sì gra[n]de e sì grosso, he pessa più he no fa el mio gra[n]de quadro he si fa; inspe[n]de in deto adorname[n]to franhi 200, vi va drento pincola cossa di pitura, si è uno aonovato.”  Given its size, thickness, weight, and expense, the “adornamento” was almost certainly a frame for Michelangelo’s Leda, which was held for the king by his treasurer, Giuliano Buonaccorsi, rather than for the copy of it that Buonaccorsi also had.  In addition to what Mini seems to indicate was its extraordinary size, the frame had also by his account a small painting set within it, which was a novelty, assuming that Mini’s “aonovato” is to be understood as “annovato.”  Although Mini did not actually say that this frame was designed by Rosso, this seems surely to be implied by the remark that Rosso was having it made.  As it would have been made of wood, it is possible that it was carved by Francesco Scibec de Carpi, who late in 1530 or in the first half of 1531 had made a frame for a large picture that Rosso had painted for the king (L.36), which may have been the lost Judith mentioned in the sources (L.35).

Mini’s comments on the size of the frame and on the novelty of it having a picture set within it bring to mind the kind of settings for large pictures that Rosso around this very time was designing for the Pavilion of Pomona (L.39) and, beginning at the same time or only slightly later, for the Gallery of Francis I (P.22).  Although these settings or frames were in stucco and surrounded frescoes, they had set within them smaller pictures.  Furthermore, the end walls had panel paintings set within stucco frames.

In September of 1536 Rosso was paid (see P.22) for having Michelangelo’s Leda sent from Buonaccorsi’s house in Paris to the château at Fontainebleau.  It was presumably sent in the frame that Rosso had designed for it in 1532.