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Odoardo Fialetti

(1573 Bologna – 1636/37 Venice)

The Angel Announces the Birth of Samson to Manoah and his Wife. Pen and brown ink over traces of black chalk, mounted on canvas. 27.4 x 18.6 cm. Numbered “27” in pen and brown ink at the bottom left, “... Tin­to­retto” inscribed verso in pen and brown ink.

Nowadays Odoardo Fialetti is known first and foremost as a painter of predominantly religious subjects and the author of something over four hundred etchings, not all of which were known to Bartsch. Born in Bologna, Fialetti was apprenticed briefly to the painter, Giovanni Battista Cremonini, before moving early on in his life to Venice, which was to become his permanent home. He enrolled as a pupil in the studio of Jacopo Tintoretto who, though already advanced in years, was to exert a decisive influence on his artistic development. Fialetti produced his first dated etching in 1604, the year in which his name was entered as a member of the Fraglia dei Pittori in Venice.

Early in the 17th century Fialetti received occasionally lavish praise for his skill as a draughtsman. Antonio Masini, for example, wrote that he was one of the “primi dissegnatori del Mondo”, while Marco Boschini, one of Fialetti’s students, confirmed that “Egli veramente disegnava in ogni modo, e maniera esquisitamente bene”. Hitherto modern researchers have paid scant attention to the artist’s drawn oeuvre, however, a situation that is only slowly being remedied. Just recently, for example, Bert W. Meijer added the present pen-and-ink drawing to the artist’s modest corpus of drawings (see Bert W. Meijer, Il disegno veneziano 1580–1650. Ricostruzione storico-artistiche, Florence 2017, p. 188, no. 13). In all probability the Old Testament motif can be interpreted as a depiction of the announcement of Samson’s birth. That the couple might be Abraham and Sara appears unlikely in view of the age of the two prota­gonists – according to Genesis 17–19 they were one hundred years old and ninety years old respectively at the time the birth of Isaac was announced.

The hallmark of Fialetti’s drawing style is his concentrated pen­­work with its dense system of parallel and crossed hatching, which is very much in the tradition of 16th century Venetian drawing, together with the close interaction between figurative and landscape elements. A comparison, in particular, of the sheet on offer here with Fialetti’s Flaying of Marsyas by Apollo (pen and brown ink, 27.5 x 18.5 cm, Los Angeles, formerly Feitelson Collection, see Meijer no. 6) makes its attribution to the artist from Venice seem highly plausible. Apart from the unmistakeably similar drawing style and the choice of medium, the sheets are of almost the same size and have the same kind of numbering in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture (no. 13 on the Marsyas print). The same numbering is to be found on at least two other drawings known to be by Fialetti.

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