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Giovanni Domenico Ferretti

(1692–1768, Florence)

Minerva, Diana and Jupiter in the Clouds. Black chalk, brown wash, heightened with white. 40 x 28 cm.

Giovanni Domenico Ferretti is regarded as the outstanding artist in Florence during the first half of the settecento. Born in Florence in 1692, he spent the first years of his apprenticeship in Emilia and Tuscany. From 1702 to 1704 he studied under Tommaso Redi in Florence before continuing his training with Sebastiano Galeotti. From 1710 to 1712 Ferretti enhanced his skills in Felice Torelli’s bottega in Bologna. After returning to Florence, Giandomenico joined the Accademia del Disegno in 1714. While still a young man, he made his mark as one of the most prolific and successful fresco painters in his native city. His works are to be found not only in Florence, but also in numerous other Tuscan cities, such as Livorno, Lucca, Pisa, Pistoia, Siena and Volterra. In addition to painting frescoes Ferretti earned himself a reputation as a portraitist.

Sprezzatura is the term that springs to mind when contemplat­ing the brilliance and virtuosity of this work. Demonstrating an uncanny, seemingly effortless ease, Ferreti uses deft and vigorous strokes of the brush to convey the turbulence of the scene. Minerva, Diana und Jupiter burst in as if driven by
a whirlwind; the eagle on Jupiter’s right is considerably fore­shortened, but highly evocative nonetheless. The dramatic chiaroscuro lends a Baroque pathos to the events. The artist has reproduced the different characteristics of the towering cloud formation with the utmost subtlety. Dark thunderclouds alternate with veils of cloud as transparent as water vapour. At the bottom right we can make out the silhouette of Ceres gazing up at the divine trio.

The impulsive style of this work differs from that in the majority of Ferretti’s drawings, which are executed in a lighter, elegant manner. While this would not appear to be a preparatory study for a painting by the artist, Ferretti’s oeuvre does contain a small group of drawings in similar style (see E. A. Maser, Gian Domenico Ferretti, Florence 1968, figs. 144–145).

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