The central fresco: c. 1.67 x c. 2.515 m.
The dish of fruit at the upper left and the basket of flowers at the upper right are at least partially additions for the tops of them occupy spaces where the beams originally were placed.
PREPARATORY DRAWING: D.53 (COPY). Paris, Ensba, no. 2842. The Education of Achilles. Oval format. The drawing is a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso that he made before it was decided to use the rectangular shape for all the large frescoes in the gallery except that of the center of the south wall. 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 in the drawing than they are in the fresco where they have been enlarged to fill and have greater effect in the enlarged rectangular fresco. The swimming scene is also more to the right in the drawing. Also in the drawing the posts enclosing the small terrace at the left are not decorated; in the painting they are, and one bears an “F.” The man in the doorway at the upper right may not be in the fresco, and the youth standing on the balcony is nude in the drawing although clothed in the painting. All the adults under the portico at the left are clothed in the painting while in the drawing some seem not to be.
Hans Kauffmann, Donatello, Berlin, 1935, 216, n. 189, recognized that the architectural background of Rosso’s central fresco is derived from the relief of the Feast of Herod in the Musée Wicar in Lille, ascribed to Donatello (see H.W. Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton, 1963, 129-131, Pls. 54-55; Fig.Feast of Herod). Although Kauffmann believed that this may indicate that the relief was brought to France in the early Cinquecento, Janson thought it just as likely that Rosso knew the relief in Florence and brought a sketch of it to France (as seems also indicated by Dunkelman, 1976, 100-101). Rosso’s study of Donatello’s art in Florence appears indicated by several references to it in his works including one early drawing, the Disputation Between Two Old Men in the Uffizi (D.2). The romping stucco putti above Rosso’s Education of Achilles in the gallery also seem to suggest his recollection of Donatello’s Cantoria, although none of them is specifically like one of Donatello’s angels. Furthermore, several of the stucco reliefs in the gallery are quite Donatellesque, especially in their use of that sculptor’s technique of rilievo stiacciato. We can assume he made drawings in Florence after the works of other artists as he is recorded as having drawn from Masaccio’s frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel (see L.1) and from Michelangelo’s Battle cartoon (see L.3). There is also evidence that he knew Michelangelo’s teste divine drawings and his David-Apollo (see D.24). But it cannot be assumed that he carried any copies that he had made, including at least one after Donatello, to France. Fleeing from Rome at the time of the Sack and then from Arezzo in 1529, where he left behind some of his own drawings, as we know from an inventory of his effects made after his departure (DOC.13), it may be wondered if Rosso had still in his possession when he left for Venice and France any of his own early drawings. It is, however, clear that Rosso’s use of the architecture of this relief is not based simply on a recollection of it. He may, of course, have had a drawing of it that was made in Florence by someone else who then brought it to France.
All of these arguments presuppose that the relief itself was not in France in the early 1530’s, but its provenance, given by Janson, does not prove that it was not. It might well have been there, even if it was with Wicar when he died in Rome in 1834. But while this would easily explain Rosso’s access to it, it does not indicate why he should have recognized its background as appropriate for the subject he needed to illustrate. None of the figures in the drawing or fresco bear any relation to those in the relief. The situation remains puzzling and the only explanation that might be offered is that the relief is not by Donatello as I suggested in Carroll, 1964 (1976), 395, n. 1 (see also D.53) and as Pope-Hennessy, 1986, 66, 72, also thought. But whereas Pope-Hennessy concluded that it was probably carved in the middle of the fifteenth century after Donatello’s Paduan reliefs (and apparently in Italy), it could just possibly have been made by a Florentine sculptor in France at the same time that Rosso created his composition. This would mean that it has no relation to Michelangelo’s Madonna of the Steps as Janson indicated it has. The Lille relief could just possibly have been made by a Donatellesque Florentine sculptor in France at the same time that Rosso created his composition. I had earlier suggested that it was by Giovanni Francesco Rustici. The child in the lower right corner of the relief is extremely similar to the Christ Child in Rustici’s tondo in the Bargello (Ciardi Dupré, 1963, Pl. 43). Furthermore, the Donatellesque character of the relief in Lille is comparable to that of Rustici’s Madonna and Child from Fontainebleau, and now in the Louvre (Middeldorf, 1935, 76, Pl.1, Fig.B). Technically and stylistically, especially the somewhat arbitrary relation of figures and architecture which is so unlike Donatello, the Lille relief resembles Rustici marble Annunciation in the Villa Salviati, Florence (Ciardi Dupré, 1963, Pl.44) and his marble St. George and the Dragon in Budapest (Middeldorf, 1935, 71, Pl.1, Fig. A). In Rosso’s composition the architecture clearly accomodates the various scenes of Achilles’s instruction suggesting that the architecture was invented by Rosso and then was borrowed by Rustici, or whoever else carved the relief.
COPY, DRAWING: Bayonne, Musée Bonnat, no. 142. Marine Deities Bathing (Fig.P.22Copy, Bayonne). Pen and brown ink and wash on beige paper, 19.8 x 29. PROVENANCE: J. Dugan (Lugt 1440); an unidentified collector’s mark at the lower right. LITERATURE: C. Gruyer, Ville de Bayonne, Musée Bonnat. Collection Bonnat Catalogue sommaire, Paris, 1908, 77, no. 142. Bean, 1960, no. 148, and Fig. Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 127. Two of the figures in this drawing are derived from the swimming episode in Rosso’s Education of Achilles. The flat buttocks of the young swimmer suggest that the ultimate source of the figures is Rosso’s lost drawing (see above) or another version of it rather than the fresco in the gallery. The scene in the Bayonne drawing decorates the body of a vase in a drawing in a private collection published by Sylvie Béguin in Renaissance, Quebec, 1984, 327-328, no. 196 and Fig., as a copy after Rosso. But the bottom of the Bayonne drawing shows two details, a spiral, serpentine form and a ledge of two steps, that do not appear in the vase suggesting the former was not made for such a decoration (see also RP.17, n. 1).