RD.27 Right Half of a Figured Frame (Cartouche) with a Term

RD.27 Right Half of a Figured Frame

Paris, Ensba, no. 1628 recto (formerly lot no. 22787 recto).


Pen and ink with colored washes, light blue in large blank area left of center and in matching narrow strip at right edge, darker blue behind mask at lower left and behind torso of term, and a rich brown behind term and in small areas to left and right of the bottom of the term, over slight traces of red chalk, 28.2 x 21.3.  The sheet is torn at the upper left and repaired, slightly ragged along the left edge, and stained in the upper and lower left corners. For inscriptions on the verso of the drawing, see D.57 (Fig.D.57).  Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994 (see below), believe the watercolor was added later by another hand; they also give the opinion of P. Fuhring that the drawing may be a “calque” after a lost drawing.

PROVENANCE: Gift of Le Soufaché in 1891.


Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 186, Fig., 187, 189, no. 213, as by Rosso, wrongly indicating this as my opinion, and, as I suggested, that the other half of the composition is preserved in a drawing in New York [on which, see below].  Béguin also pointed out that the drawing is attributed to Rosso in the inventory of the École des Beaux-Arts.

Raggio, 1974, 74, as Rosso, and for the Gallery of Francis I.

Nielson, 1974, 169, as Rosso.

Laskin, 1974, 256, as not certainly by Rosso.

Lévêque, 1984, 162, Fig., as Rosso.

Émanuelle Brugerolles, in Renaissance, Quebec, 1984, 325, with Fig., as attributed to Rosso.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 42-45, no. 16, Fig., as Circle of Rosso, for Fontainebleau or another residence.

Béguin, 1995, 192, as by Thiry.


What is almost certainly the composition of the left half of this figured frame appears in a drawing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fig.New York, Cartouche).1  The two drawings are not, however, by the same hand.  Together the shape of the central area of this frame is almost square, indicating that it cannot be related to the decoration of the long walls of the Gallery of Francis I, nor, of course, to the end walls that had oval paintings at their centers.  Furthermore, the outer sides of both the New York and Paris drawings seem to indicate, by the continuation of the lines and bars of the scheme, by the repetition of the garlands, and by the appearance of the putto at the upper right of the New York drawing (which is missing from the matching location of the Paris drawing) that together they do not form an independent frame but rather a section of a frieze, and showing, it would seem, only its stucco parts.  Above the female term in the New York drawing is the indication of the beam of a flat ceiling.  The breadth of this beam suggests that the decoration beneath it is smaller than what appears in the Gallery of Francis I.  A few discrepancies between the two drawings, especially the height of the heads and the exact positions of the baskets on their heads in relation to the ceiling that would have been above them, indicate that the two drawings are not actually derived from a single drawing but from separate drawings that gave slight variations on the arrangement of this frieze.

Although the figural and decorative vocabulary of the Paris drawing, and of the matching one in New York, is related to Rosso’s as found in the Gallery of Francis I and elsewhere, as in his Holy Family in a Cartouche of c. 1538 (Fig.D.75A), the specific character of the terms of these drawings does not point to Rosso as the author of these compositions.  The ill proportions of the terms and their utter stiffness find no counterparts in any work that can be securely attributed to him.  The phallic details that accompany the female term are not found in any work surely by Rosso.  The putti, the nude youths, and the garlands are closer to his style.  But the drawings as a whole are composites, with parts perhaps copying quite closely figures by him, and other parts, the terms in particular, being quite unlike what he would have done.2  While Thiry’s name might be brought up here, as Béguin has done for the Paris sheet, I do not recognize his hand in any of its modes in either drawing.

The draughtsmanship of both drawings also imitates his with the kind of regularity that appears in almost all the copies of lost drawings done for the Gallery of Francis I.  The New York drawing is the less sure of the two and would seem to be a copy of a drawing that would have graphically resembled more the Paris sheet.

The fact that the verso of the Paris drawing (Fig.D.57) is a copy of a lost drawing by Rosso for the East Wall of the Gallery of Francis I would not necessarily mean that the recto is also derived from a drawing by him.  It would have been in the context of copying his drawings that such a composite as appears on the recto would have been made.  It seems reasonable to suppose that the Paris and New York compositions were designed for a specific place, which need not have been at Fontainebleau.  They may well have been made after Rosso’s death.


1 Print Room, no. 55.632.8, as School of Fontainebleau, Gift of Harry G. Friedman.  Pen and brown ink and gray wash, 28.9 x 19.6.  Inscribed in pencil on the verso: 184 and ? V Dut Gb no 195; a note on the mat states: R.B. [Berliner?]: Very important drawing. NOT Italian. NOT French.  This drawing was kindly brought to my attention by Janet S. Byrne.  Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 42, Fig., 44.

2 The male term in the New York drawing is somewhat related to a term in a cartouche by Du Cerceau (Grands Cartouches, First set, Herbet, IV, 1900, 301 [1969, 151] no. 10; New York, 62.525, p.51), but that term is also not closely related to Rosso.