P.22 I North: Venus and Minerva

P.22 I North: Venus and Minerva

The central fresco: c. 1.64 x c. 2.60 m.

Fig.P.22, I N a whole wall
Fig.P.22, I N b bw, whole wall
Fig.P.22, I N c center picture left
Fig.P.22, I N d bw, Minerva’s shield
Fig.P.22, I N e center picture right
Fig.P.22, I N f stucco right
Fig.P.22, I N g bw, gallery exterior view
Fig.P.22, I N h gallery exterior view
Fig.P.22, I N i Naval Battle
Fig.P22, I N j seated king

On the possibility that the center fresco shows Venus and Minerva, see Carroll, 1987, 230–231.

Originally the beams were placed between the large volutes above the stucco figures at the left and right.  The vine and drapery covering the genitals of these nudes are probably additions as may also be the framed imitation red marble panels on either side of the small fresco of the château (see Fantuzzi’s etching, E.70).


Paris, Ensba, Masson Collection 1389.  Naval Battle in a Port.  A copy of a drawing for the oval stucco relief under the large stucco nude at the left.  A later drawing must have been made from which the relief was actually modelled as it shows certain changes especially in the clearer definition of the actions of some of the figures at the right.1

PRINTS: E.138. Anonymous, Venus and Minerva.

The print shows basically the same scene as Rosso’s fresco, but in a vertical format, and reversed.  Columns, a pier, and a pilaster of the Tuscan order form a portico with a niche and part of a hall, at the left, set before a surrounding wall of pier, arches, and oculi, partly in ruins, at the upper left.  The architecture in the fresco is a more complex structure with lavender tritons not found in the print.  A bearded statue is barely visible in the niche.  Minerva is less fully clothed. Cupid’s eyes are clearly visible and closed, and a putto holds the book that in the fresco is propped against a column and only touched by a putto.  In the background are three unbridled horses’ heads.

E.70. Fantuzzi, Frame.

This etching shows the frame in reverse surrounding a landscape.  Differences from what appear in the gallery are: a small horizontal picture above surmounted by acanthus ornament instead of the salamander in its niche although the side motifs of this niche are the same; garlands of fruit at either side of this small picture instead of satyrs’ heads in the side areas that are larger in the gallery; small baskets of fruit where beams were placed between the volutes at left and right which may either reflect something of the original ornament that was placed immediately under the beams or be Fantuzzi’s replacement for the beams which the nineteenth century restorers of the gallery used as a model to fill the spaces created by the raising of the beams; no garlands immediately above the heads of the large nudes; a male and female putto with arms crossed over their chests alongside the large stucco nudes instead of the blank areas in the gallery; no moldings on the small entablatures at the shoulder level of the large nudes; blank oval areas beneath the large nudes; garlands of fruit where the imitation marble plaques appear below; a somewhat large frame, but without a picture, instead of the framed view of the château below; no vine or drapery covering the genitals of the large nudes; the position of one foot of the female and one hand and arm of the male are slightly different; the garlands at the outer sides appear real and as hanging from a small ledge; three of the adolescent boys above are bald but their poses, except for that of one of the youths above the large male nude, are very similar to those in the gallery.

Certain details of Fantuzzi’s etching, such as the bald adolescents, the different pose of one of them, the putti alongside the large nudes, as well as the unarticulated entablatures, indicate not only that the print was not derived from what appears in the gallery but that it is based upon a lost drawing by Rosso showing the decoration around the central scene but most likely without that scene itself.  The lost drawing used by Fantuzzi would not, however, have been Rosso’s final design for this wall.  A later drawing and more probably a series of more detailed drawings would have provided the models from which Rosso’s assistants worked.  The adolescents were made more mature and their poses more expansive and relaxed, the small compressed putti were eliminated, and, it would seem, the large male nude was given a somewhat easier posture.  In the gallery the composition of the frame has been clarified in a manner similar to the clarification that appears in the stucco relief beneath the large male nude as compared to the earlier design for it preserved in the copy of a lost drawing in the Ensba.  The small scene at the top of the etching could also have been in the lost drawing to be substituted by the salamander when it was decided that this emblematic animal should have its place above every large fresco in the gallery.

One of Du Cerceau’s Petits Cartouches, E.57,5, is rather loosely copied from Fantuzzi’s etching.

1 According to Bean, 1960, no. 147, and Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 125, a drawing of a Female Nude, in the Musée Bonnat, Bayonne (no. 1371), is derived from the figure of Venus in Rosso’s fresco.  This does not seem to be necessarily the case.