RD.23 Assembly of the Gods in a Cartouche

RD.23 Assembly of the Gods

Madrid, Prado, no. 238.


Pen and gray ink and gray wash, 16.3 x 20.7, maximum measurements (the drawing is cut on all sides); laid down.  Inscribed in chalk (?) at the upper right: 89, and on the backing, at the lower right, in pencil (?): 238.

LITERATURE: Béguin, 1982, 30, 34, Fig. 10, as Rosso.

This image of this drawing is known from five other drawings, two in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, one in the Louvre, one in Berlin (Fig.RD.23, bis),1 and another at Christ Church, Oxford (Fig.RD.23, ter).2  These other drawings show that the Madrid drawing is very much cut down and presents less than half of the left side of the original composition of a symmetrical cartouche.  The Berlin and Christ Church drawings show two huge feet overlapping the scene set largely within the cartouche, suggesting that the cartouche belonged to a decoration that contained other figures, probably in stucco, of a significantly larger size.  The Louvre drawing does not show these feet (see Berckenhagen in n. 1).

Béguin thought that the Madrid drawing was of superior quality to all the rest (although she did not mention the Christ Church drawing, which does not, however, seem to be a better drawing).  For her the Madrid drawing is stylistically virtually identical to Rosso’s drawing of Apollo holding a Lyre in the Louvre (Fig.D.76Aa).  She also found the figures similar to those in Rosso’s Vertumnus and Pomona, etched by Fantuzzi (Fig.E.62a), in his Mars and Venus drawing in the Louvre (Fig.D.42a), and in his Three Fates, Nude, engraved by Pierre Milan (Fig.E.105).  The putti she found similar to those by Rosso of the frame of the Danaë in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22, IV S a).  Béguin contrasted Rosso’s works, and the Madrid drawing, to Primaticcio’s drawing of Ganges in the Louvre (Fig.Primaticcio, Ganges),3 made for the Gallery of Ulysses.  She concluded that while in Primaticcio’s work forms remain parallel to the picture plane, Rosso accentuates the volume of his.  For Béguin this contrast differentiates the work of the two artists and points to Rosso’s authorship of the Madrid drawing.

But nothing of the Madrid drawing nor of the other versions of this drawing indicates Rosso’s authorship to me.  The graceful twisting figures with their small heads and long, tapering limbs and somewhat dreamy expressions are very much Primaticcio’s.  There is nowhere in the Assembly of the Gods the sharp juxtapositions of the planes that is so characteristic of Rosso’s art.  Nor is its somewhat disheveled composition indicative of Rosso’s manner of composing.  The Madrid drawing seems to me to be by Primaticcio or a good copy of a drawing by him.  It reminds me of his Decorative Project in the Hermitage (Fig.Primaticcio, Decorative Project) and his Wounded Paris Being Carried Outside the Walls of Troy in the Louvre, both datable in the 1540s.4


1 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes, B. 5, Réserve, two drawings, the better one Donation Herbet, 1929.  Paris, Louvre, inv. no. 8775.  Berlin, Kunstbibliothek, Hdz 3397.  See Béguin, 1982, 30, 34, Fig. 11 (the Berlin drawing), 48, ns. 25-29.  For the Louvre drawing, see also Dimier, 1900, 476-477, no. 20, as a copy after a drawing by Primaticcio.  For the Berlin drawing, see also Berckenhagen, 1968, 11, under Luca Penni, but as after a lost drawing by Rosso for the Pavillon des Poêles and as perhaps by Milan or Boyvin.  Berckenhagen mentioned the Louvre drawing as another copy of the lost drawing, but states that it does not have the two large feet that appear in the Berlin drawing.

2 Inv. no. 1448.  Pen and light gray-brown wash, 21.7 x 41.6.  Inscribed in black chalk on the old mat: Rosso Fiorentino; inscribed on the verso: 29.  See Byam Shaw, 1976, I, 68, no. 128, as after Rosso(?).

3Louvre, Inv. 8530; Béguin, 1982, 30, 35, Fig. 14, 48, n. 35.

4 For the St. Petersburg drawing, see Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 144, Fig. 154, 145, no. 154, and for the Louvre drawing, Bacou, in EdF, 1972, 144, Fig. 155, 145, no. 155.