The present decoration of the center north wall is of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Fig.P.22, IV N, Present Decoration) and replaces the original entrance to the north cabinet and its surrounding decoration. In 1786 the doorway was blocked up and the wall was decorated with a copy of the frame across from it. This new frame was filled with a large oval oil painting by Boulogne le Jeune representing Minerva and the Arts with a Bust of Francis I (Fig.Boulogne le Jeune) that had been in the North Cabinet where it replaced Primaticcio’s frescoed Jupiter and Semele (see below). Under this decoration was a fireplace, the opening of which was probably the width of the original door, flanked by wood paneling which was probably the same as that made by Scibec de Carpi for this wall. A view of the arrangement appears in Alfred Guesdon’s lithograph (see above, “Views of the Gallery,” and Fig.Guesdon). The Nymph of Fontainebleau was painted here in the mid-nineteenth century at which time, it would seem, the fireplace was removed. A copy of the present stuccoes at the left appears in Charles Percier’s sketch, at the upper right, in the Bibliothèque de l’Institut, Paris (“Galerie,” RdA, 1972, 33, Fig. 48 (Fig.Percier drawing 1), with caption wrongly indicating that it represents the stuccoes of the Danaë wall).
Entrance wall of the North Cabinet
PRINTS: E.5. Domenico del Barbiere, Fame. This engraving, inscribed GLORIA, is generally thought to represent the painted figure of Fame on a gold background that Dan and Guilbert said was at one side of the entrance. Stylistically, the figure looks very much to be Rosso’s invention; it is especially similar to his figure of Philyra to the right of the Royal Elephant in the gallery (Fig.P.22, VI N a). The drapery of the engraved figure is quite like that of Minerva in the Venus and Minerva (Fig.P.22, I N a) and the mother in the Cleobis and Biton (Fig.P.22, V S a). Therefore, it seems reasonable to recognize this figure as Rosso’s and derived from a drawing by him. Because the globe beneath the figure shows its land masses in the opposite direction it would seem that the whole image is reversed. Such being the case the figure would have been painted at the left of the door, as indicated in Mariette, Abécédario, 1858-1859, 23, with her glance upward in the direction of the bust of Francis I that was above the entrance. Mariette (d. 1774) spoke of the entrance as an “arcade.”
E.141. Anonymous, Victory. It is very likely that this etching is related to the painted figure of Victory that Dan and Guilbert said was painted at one side of the entrance. The dress of the figure and her flowing hair are quite in the manner of Rosso, and the fact that she holds up a wreath and tramples upon a pile of military arms clearly signifies her as Victory. There is a certain flabbiness in the forms of the figure and an uncertainty in the description of her legs and the placement of her feet but these characteristics are easily attributable to the limitations of the etcher. The posture of the figure, seen in profile and walking forward with her hands raised holding the wreath, is quite what one would expect of Rosso’s Victory placed on one side of the door which had a bust of Francis I above it. She would be offering this wreath to the king. (The platform on which the image is placed is a pen and ink addition to the print; also added in ink are the small circles and short lines on the military arms, and the figure’s sandals.)
As Domenico del Barbiere’s engraving of Fame appears to be in the reverse direction of the lost painting to which it is related, the figure of Victory would have to be in the original direction to place it facing left on the right side of the door to the North Cabinet. But the etcher probably worked from a lost drawing by Rosso or from a copy of it, rather than from the painting in the gallery.
The North Cabinet
This small room, planned in 1528 to project into the adjacent courtyard from the center of the north side of the gallery, was built and decorated probably entirely by Primaticcio. There is no evidence that Rosso had a hand in its decoration. I ts major image was Primaticcio’s fresco of Jupiter and Semele on its east wall. Already in 1731 when Guilbert described the gallery this fresco had disappeared and had been replaced by Boulogne le Jeune’s Minerva and the Arts with a Bust of Francis I (Fig.Boulogne le Jeune). This picture, which was eventually placed in the gallery itself (see above) still exists at Fontainebleau (Pressouyre, “Cadre architectural,” 1972, 16 and Fig. 12). Its oval shape and its size are the same as those of the lost Semele.1 According to Guilbert, 1731, 96-97, the oval fresco was “held” by (stucco) figures in relief of a male nude and a female nude reclining on garlands of flowers, and above it were putti looking at a salamander. Also according to Guilbert, the fireplace (on the west wall) was “à l’antique” and decorated with reliefs, in stucco presumably, of small “Vulcains” and “Ciclopes” and other grotesques, framing a small picture, in fresco, it would seem, of “les faux Livres des Sibylles brûles.”
COPY, DRAWING, COUNTERPROOF: Béguin, 1994, 270-272, Pl. 35c, published a counterproof of a drawing by Van Thulden (or by Abraham van Diepenbeeck) that, she believes, shows the lost small fresco mentioned by Guilbert (Fig.Van Thulden drawing).2 She is certainly correct.3 The style of the image represented by the counterproof shows in the proportions of the figures, the parallelisms and extension of limbs, the “classicism” of Primaticcio’s style derived from Raphael by way of Giulio Romano. Béguin identified the subject as Constantine’s Burning of the Arian Books at the First Council of Nicaea, rather than the subject proposed by Guilbert.
PRINT: Léon Davent (Master L.D.), Jupiter and Semele (Fig.Davent Semele). Bartsch, XVI, 1818, 397, no. 54. Herbet, I, 1896, 72-73 (1969, 21-22), no. 5. Zerner, 1969, L.D.11. Dimier, 1900, 487. Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 300, no. 372, 302, Fig. Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 131. This oval etching most probably reproduces the major composition by Primaticcio in the North Cabinet. It is also very probable that the print shows the composition in reverse as is true of Léon Davent’s etching after Primaticcio’s Danaë. If this is the case then the direction of the light is also reversed indicating that the picture was on the east wall with the light falling in correspondence with that entering the North Cabinet from the north window at the left.
1Dimier, 1898, 100-101, thought that the document of 1538-1544 (see above) as referring to Badouin’s painting in a cabinet was about the North Cabinet of the gallery while it actually concerns a cabinet in the Tour du Jardin (A.3).
2 Also Béguin, CASVA, 1989, 44. Sale, Sotheby’s, London, 30 October 1980, lot 87. The medium, measurements, and location of this drawing are not known; the photograph of it is from the Getty Photo Archive.
3 The sheet also shows a standing draped woman holding a mask in front of her face that is copied and, as a counterproof, reversed, from the frescoed figure at the far upper left of the Enlightenment of Francis I in the Gallery of Francis I. This appearance of this figure strongly indicates that the round scene was also copied at Fontainebleau.