RD.28 Scene of Incantation

RD.28 Scene of Incantation

Paris, Ensba, Masson 1194.


Pen and point of brush and ink and wash, 42.8 x 29.4.

PROVENANCE: Jean Masson (Lugt 1494a), given in 1925.


Masson, 1927, 30, no. 172, as Boyvin.

Kusenberg, 1929, 62-63, Pl. 53, as Rosso, about 1530-1535.

Kusenberg, 1931, 137, 146, no. 77, Pl. LXXIV, as Rosso, 1530-1540.

Kusenberg, Strasbourg, 1931, 111, as Rosso.

Art italien, 1935, 38, no. 132, as Rosso.

Berenson, 1938, 1961, no. 2458B, as Rosso.

Becherucci, 1944, 32 (1949, 31), Pl. 80, as Rosso, in his French period.

Briganti, 1945, Fig. 28 (wrongly as in Bayonne), as Rosso.

Barocchi, 1950, 215-216, 252, Fig. 193, as one of Rosso’s last works.

Barocchi, Commentari, 1950, 159, as Rosso.

Longhi, 1951, 59 (1976, 99), as not by Rosso.

Bologna and Causa, 1952, 60, as Rosso.

Adhémar, 1954, 126 (1955, 123), Pl. 18, as Rosso, around 1532-1535.

Triomphe du Maniérisme, 1955, 140, no. 247, as Rosso.

Renaissance italienne, 1958, no. 45, Pl. 4, as Rosso.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), II, Bk. II, 501-504, F. 44, Bk. III, Fig. 197, as not by Rosso, and attributed to Léonard Thiry.

Béguin, in Seizième siècle… peintures et dessins, 1965-1966, 203-204, Fig., as Rosso.

Fagiolo dell’Arco, 1970, Fig. 186, as Rosso.

Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 186, Fig., 187, no. 210, as Rosso.

Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 40, Fig. 4, II, 64-65, no. 210, as Rosso.

Laskin, 1974, 256, as Rosso.

Raggio, 1974, 74, as Rosso.

Claudio Pizzorusso, in Corte, mare, mercanti, 1980, 345, no. 1.40, as anonymous, first half of the 16th century.

Lévêque, 1984, 166, Fig., as Rosso.

Brugerolles, 1984, 95, under no. 103, as Rosso.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 40-42, no. 15, Fig., with full bibliography, as Rosso; but if by Thiry it would be necessary to reconsider his oeuvre.


In response to an early attribution of this drawing to Boyvin, Kusenberg observed in 1929 that the handling of this drawing has nothing in common with the “mechanical” draughtsmanship of those drawings that served as the models of this engraver’s prints.1  It should be added that there is no evidence that Boyvin invented the compositions that he engraved; all of his prints are copies of compositions by other artists.  Consequently there is no basis for the attribution of this drawing to him.

Kusenberg’s attribution of the drawing to Rosso and his dating of it in Rosso’s French period has been largely accepted, but not by Longhi in 1951, who did not, however, suggest an alternative attribution, nor by me in 1964 (1976).  Pizzorusso accepted my opinion in 1980, and repeated my suggestion that the drawing is by Léonard Thiry.

If by Rosso the handling of the drawing should bear a close resemblance to such autograph pen and ink and wash drawings as the Throne of Solomon (Fig.D.34), the Pandora and Her Box (Fig.D.67a), and the Design for a Tomb (Fig.D.81a).  But the precision, vigor, and deftness of these drawings is wholly lacking in the finicky Incantation.  Nor does the drawing give any clear signs of having been copied from a lost drawing by Rosso.  The anatomy of the two women at the left is awkwardly conceived; it is, in fact, quite difficult to tell just how the right leg of the distant woman is related to the rest of her anatomy.  The brilliancy of light and dark that one would expect in such a drawing by Rosso showing a flaming and smoking pot is missing.  Furthermore, there are no signs that the drawing is a copy at all.  It would seem to be an original drawing by whomever made it.

In 1964 (published in 1976), after already several years of research to establish a drawing oeuvre for Rosso Fiorentino, I felt reasonably sure that the Scene of Incantation was not by him.  This conclusion was reached in spite of the finesse, excitement, even allure of the drawing and its similarities to much of the same kind of expression in the paintings and sculptures in the Gallery of Francis I.  With what I knew then, Léonard Thiry, Rosso’s Flemish assistant, seemed its most probable author.  My arguments then seemed sufficient.  But it was still only a probable solution.  Pizzorusso, in 1980, accepted my taking it from Rosso, but suggested only that it was an anonymous drawing done before 1550.  In 1951 Longhi had also denied it to Rosso.  Then, in 1994, Brugerolles and Guillet, who continued the tradition of attributing the drawing to Rosso, commented that if by Thiry, as I had thought, then it would be necessary to reconsider the entire oeuvre that had been constructed for him.  I felt I had to take this suggestion seriously.

But this reconsideration was not to result in a confirmation of my early opinion that the Scene of Incantation is by Thiry.  For within their superb volume, Le Dessin en France au XVIe Siècle, and among its abundant fine illustrations, I came to see in the drawing the greater possibility that it is by Jean Cousin the Elder.

Almost half of the drawing is occupied by a fantastic landscape of dense foliage and drooping vines in the farthest distance of which is an imaginary city, possibly in ruins, with at least one tall spire.  Vines also hang from the large and detailed architecture up close behind the foreground figures, some vines hanging from spindly branches growing from cracks in the entablature.  Such an extensive landscape, and of this particular lush and overgrown kind, appears nowhere in Rosso’s art.  Plants trailing down from cracks in ruins appear in the Allegory of Deceit in the Gallery of Francis I (Fig.P.22, II S f) and in Rosso’s Narcissus (Fig.D.44), and distant views of landscapes with architecture appear in major scenes in the gallery, in the Loss of Perpetual Youth (Fig.P.22, II S a) and in the Cleobis and Biton (P.22, V S a).  But no scenes by Rosso show the extent of landscape that is found in the Incantation.  What appears in the drawing is an extravagant elaboration of similar details that are more modestly used by Rosso.

The landscape in the Paris drawing resembles more closely those in the backgrounds of drawings by Jean Cousin the Elder than any other landscapes I have seen in works that seem to have been done in the wake of Rosso’s activity in France.  Of the drawings in the volume by Brugerolles and Guillet, two by Cousin the Elder provide good comparisons: the Story of Meleager of c. 1550-1555 (Fig.Cousin, Meleager), and Figures in an Idyllic Landscape, attributed to Cousin by Béguin (Fig.Cousin, Figures).2

These drawings by Jean Cousin the Elder are, I suspect, later in date than the Incantation, where the draughtsman is caught in the aura of Rosso’s art of the 1530s while Rosso was still alive, or very shortly after his death in November of 1540.  The poses and gestures and the drapery of the large figures and the drama of the scene as a whole have correspondences throughout the Gallery of Francis I, as, especially, in the Enlightenment of Francis I (Fig.P.22, VII S a), the Sacrifice (Fig.P.22, VII N a), and the Cleobis and Biton (Fig.P.22, V S a).  Just as likely as sources of inspiration would have been the prints made after Rosso’s drawings, depending on when the drawing was made.  Fantuzzi’s etchings would have been a major source, and could support a date for the Incantation around 1542-1545.

For the figures in the Scene of Incantation, the landscapes in Jean Cousin’s drawings are not useful.  Here the Charity, in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier (Fig.Cousin, Charity), presents needed evidence, even if less than wished for.3  Charity’s broad shoulders and emphatically spherical breasts are quite like those of the foremost young woman in the drawing; their plaited hair and profiles are very similar.  Furthermore, the flat and stretched drapery, tightly wrapped around one leg in each work, looks very much alike in the drawing and the painting.  As in the drawing, the Charity has at the upper right a distant, rising landscape with very small, almost invisible buildings, set in groups within its hills.

Formerly attributed to Primaticcio and then to the School of Rosso, the picture was attributed to Cousin the Elder by Charles Sterling in 1955 by comparisons with Cousin’s Eva Prima Pandora, variously dated until c. 1549, and the Saint Mammès tapestries designed by him in 1543.  Béguin agreed with Sterling in placing the Charity before those works.  Having arrived in Paris around 1540, toward the end of Rosso’s life or very soon after his death, Cousin would have created his Scene of Incantation when the originality of Rosso’s art may have been most deeply felt.


1 See Levron, 1941, 61-63, especially nos. 5-24, in the Ensba, Paris.

2 Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 158, 159, Fig., 160-162, no. 51, and 162, Fig., 164, no. 52.  Trees with trailing foliage appear in the landscapes of Thiry’ s Story of Callisto, etched by Léon Davent (London, 1851,0208.127, Fig.Davent, Callisto, 1 and London, 1851,0208.129, Fig.Davent, Callisto, 2), but not with the lush density they have in Cousin the Elder’s landscapes and in the Scene of Incantation.

3 See Béguin, in EdF, 1972, 58, Fig., 61, no. 57.  A picture of similar characteristics but without a landscape is another Charity mentioned by Kusenberg, 1931, 132, as sold, 14 December 1923, at Christie’s, London, lot 136 (not 163), of the Sir Henry H. Howorth Collection Sale (Fig.Christie’s, Charity).  Kusenberg implies it was there attributed to Rosso, but it was actually listed as School of Francesco Rossi (Salviati).  Kusenberg, 1933, 165, n. 1, Fig., as the School of Rosso, 169, as possibly executed in France.  From Sylvie Béguin I learned it was in a sale at the Hôtel de Ventes, “Leesmuseum,” Amsterdam, 7 April 1936, from the collection of Antoon van Welie, as by Maarten van Heemskerck.  Cheney, 1963, 466, thought it might be the work of Carlo Portelli.