P.22 IV South: Planned South Cabinet, The Nymph of Fontainebleau and The Danaë

P.22 IV South: The Danaë

The central oval fresco: c. 1.01 x c. 2.54 m.

Fig.P.22, IV S a whole wall
Fig.P.22, IV S b left
Fig.P.22, IV S c right
Fig.P.22, IV S d bw, left, Apollo’s chariot
Fig.P.22, IV S e bw, right, Diana’s chariot
Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, a bw, whole tapestry
Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, b bw, Apollo’s chariot
Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, c bw, Diana’s chariot
Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, d bw, child musicians

The project of a South Cabinet, to match the one on the north side of the gallery, was planned in 1528, apparently built to some extent, and then abandoned, it would seem, some short while before April 1534 when construction was begun on the kitchens, larders and terrace on the south side of the block in which the gallery is located.  Prior to its destruction Primaticcio was probably assigned its decoration, possibly in collaboration with Rosso.  With the removal of the South Cabinet its entrance wall became a continuous wall without a doorway.  For this new wall area Rosso designed the Nymph of Fontainebleau with its frame known from an engraving by Milan and Boyvin (see below).  Only the engraved frame, slightly modified, was actually executed in the gallery.  The image of the Nymph, designed as a relief, so interpreted from the inscription on the print (see Carroll, 1987, 252-256), was replaced by Primaticcio’s fresco of Danaë, the subject of which was probably originally planned for the South Cabinet.

In the gallery the stucco fruit held in the baskets at right and left is partly remade to fill the area once occupied by the lower set beams.  As visible in the Milan-Boyvin print and in the Vienna tapestry (see below), a pair of high volutes originally embraced the beams; a remnant of this motif survives in the two volutes rising from the left basket.  The winged putto’s head in stucco just beneath the salamander is an addition of the latest restoration based upon the tapestry.  The Milan-Boyvin engraving shows a smaller head.  Given that the tapestry tends to exaggerate the size of all parts of the decoration here a smaller head may originally have been in the gallery.  Above the salamander in the tapestry there seems to be a repair which might replace something that was once here in the gallery although the Milan-Boyvin print does not show anything.  Pressouyre, “Restaurations,” 1972, 29, states that the large stucco figures are similar in style and technique to those designed by Primaticcio in the Chambre de la Duchesse d’Etampes.  Technically this may be true but stylistically Rosso’s women look quite unlike Primaticcio’s.  One might compare Rosso’s figures with those in the Loss of Perpetual Youth (Fig.P.22, II S a), designed probably about the same time as the Nymph of Fontainebleau wall or only slightly earlier.

However, while the frame and the central picture of the Nymph wall as seen in the Milan-Boyvin print would seem to date from early 1534 – compare, for example, the head of Danaë with the head of the Virgin in the Annunciation in Vienna (D.43), which may actually have been done no later than 1533 – the two oval frescoes (Fig.P.22, IV S d; Fig.P.22, IV S e) at the top of this wall have figures and compositions that seem later.  The reclining nude in the right Diana oval is identical to Hercules in Rosso’s Dream of Hercules, known from a drawing in the Louvre (D.78) and a print attributed to Boyvin (E.17), that was probably invented in 1539.  The Michelangelesque character of the two small oval frescoes, so unlike what appears in the only other comparable small frescoes in the gallery, the round paintings flanking the Loss of Perpetual Youth (Fig.P.22, II S f; Fig.P.22, II S g), suggests that the oval frescoes were designed in the last period of Rosso’s work on the gallery, after mid-August 1536, or, if designed earlier as their appearance in the print would seem to indicate, were modified in a Michelangelesque manner when executed at that later time.

The substitution of Primaticcio’s Danaë in fresco for Rosso’s planned relief of the Nymph of Fontainebleau would not have taken place until this time.  Béguin, “Programme mythologique,” 1972, 166, suggested that the payment to Claude Badouin in 1537 “pour avoir fait un grand pourtraict [not “pourtour”] pour l’un des tableaux” in the gallery refers to Primaticcio’s Danaë.  Barocchi, 1951, 211, n. 5, also thought that the fresco was executed in 1537, not in 1542 as proposed by Dimier, 1900, 302.  It is possible that the payment to Badouin indicates the making of the cartoon for this fresco.  But it could also indicate work for another wall.  In any case, Primaticcio’s fresco would seem to have been executed before the woodwork was installed in the gallery in 1539.1

The Nymph of Fontainebleau

PRINT: E.103.  Pierre Milan and René Boyvin, The Nymph of Fontainebleau in a Frame (E.103).  This large engraving shows in reverse the frame of this wall surrounding Rosso’s Nymph of Fontainebleau and is the only print that shows a frame with the scene it encloses, or was meant to enclose, in the gallery and not with a landscape.  The intention of the engraving is, therefore, quite different from that of Fantuzzi’s etchings.  Milan and Boyvin’s print was made, as its inscription indicates, to preserve the design of one of the walls in the gallery only part of which was executed according to Rosso’s plan.  The identification of the reclining woman as Diana must be a later identification with reference to Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henri II, during whose reign the print was made.  The frame shown in the engraving is not copied from what was executed in the gallery where differences can be found: all but one of the music-playing putti have sashes of drapery, and there is a broad stucco slab with birds and garlands instead of a dog with bones and a chained monkey with a piece of fruit that are shown as painted here in the print.  It is very likely that the engraving was based on a lost drawing by Rosso that may have been similar to his drawing at Christ Church that illustrates a sonnet by Petrarch (D.47), and likely, too, that from this drawing later ones were made from which the frame was actually executed.  In addition to the changes indicated above the postures of the women were slightly altered, the baskets above their heads were made differently, and the stucco putti at the upper right and left were given other positions.  On the drapery added at the women’s hips and the different design of the top of the pedestals see the discussion of the Fantuzzi etching below.  The engraving is interesting in showing a cross-section of the transverse beams and the garlands as painted at the outer sides of the wall, details that also suggest that the print is based on a lost drawing.  For an exact copy of this print, see under E.103.

A few details of one of Du Cerceau’s Grands Cartouches, Second Set (E.56,4) are derived from this engraving.  For two caryatids by Du Cerceau related to the engraving, see E.58.

E.69.  Fantuzzi, Frame.  This etching reproduces the left half of the frame of this wall and then shows it in reverse on the other side of the large central oval enclosing a cityscape.  However, the etching is not based upon the decoration in the gallery.  It would seem at first that the etching was based on the right half of the Milan-Boyvin engraving with its upper left putto used by Fantuzzi for the two upper corners of his print.  But there are two details that indicate that this is not the case.  In the engraving there is drapery around the stucco women’s hips while in the etching there are little mouldings with loops similar to what appears in the gallery.  Also there is a light band behind the lower figures in Fantuzzi’s etching that runs from the far left to the far right.  This appears neither in the engraving nor in the gallery.  In the etching it forms a kind of base that might be thought to make sense under and partly behind the central oval.  When executed the frame in the gallery was given a similar base in stucco under the central oval picture.  It is quite possible that the drapery around the women’s hips is a decorus addition to the engraving and that the strip at the bottom of Rosso’s design has been eliminated here.  Fantuzzi’s etching may then actually be based on the same lost drawing and may preserve two details of it that are not found in the Milan-Boyvin engraving.

One of Du Cerceau’s Grands Cartouches, Second Set (E.56,4) is largely based on Fantuzzi’s print with a few details derived from the Milan-Boyvin engraving (E.103).  For two caryatids by Du Cerceau derived from the same sources, see E.58.

COPIES, PAINTINGS: Paris, Galerie Charpentier (formerly?).  The Nymph of Fontainebleau in a Frame.  See under E.103.


PREPARATORY DRAWING: Chantilly, Musée Condé, no. 135 D.  Primaticcio, Danaë (Fig.Primaticcio Chantilly).  Dimier, 1900, 447, no. 130.  Barocchi, 1951, 211, and n. 5, Pl. LXI, Fig. 256.  Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 299, under no. 371.  Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 132, 133, Fig. 195.  This squared drawing differs from the fresco primarily in not showing a full statue in the niche in the background.

PRINT: Léon Davent (Master L.D.), Danaë (Fig.Davent Danaë).  Bartsch, XVI, 1818,  321, 40.  Herbet, I, 1886, 71-72 (1969, 20-21), 4.  Dimier, 1900, 487, no. 4.  Zerner, 1969, L.D.8.  Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 299-300, no. 371, 302, Fig.  Béguin and Pressouyre, 1972, 132.  This etching, in reverse of the painting, resembles the Chantilly drawing in its details and was probably made from it.

TAPESTRY: Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, C/V 1. 332 x 635 (for media, see below).  This tapestry (Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, a; Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, b; Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, c; Fig.P.22, IV S,Tapestry, d) shows the decoration of the wall with the Danaë.  The central painting is very much elaborated and all the stucco fruit of the frame is shown in color.  At the bottom the four children at the left wear green, red, and tan drapery respectively.  Three of the children at the right have blue to pink, green, and tan drapery; the fourth child has none.  There is a green book leaning against a cylindrical box.  In the oval scene at the left above, Apollo has red drapery.  In the other oval Diana wears blue, the serpents are green, and there is green drapery beneath the foreground figure.

There is a repair above the salamander suggesting that something has been removed (Pressouyre suggested a crown), although nothing appears here in the gallery.

1 McAllister Johnson and Graham, 1958, 9, thought the terms were executed c. 1541 by Primaticcio but there is no documentation to support this suggestion nor does their style indicate his execution.