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Rosso Fiorentino

(1494 Florence – 1540 Paris)

Caritas Romana. Engraving. 13.8 x 32 cm. 1542. Bartsch XV, 487, 2; Herbet (1899), III, 24; Exhibition Catalogue Rosso Fiorentino, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1987/88, 81 I (of III).

This portrayal of Cimon and Pero reproduces the essence of a stucco relief in the Galerie François Ier in the Castle of Fontainebleau which was based upon an invention by Rosso Fiorentino. In view of individual differences in the compositional arrangement of the figures we may assume that it was not the relief itself, but a preliminary drawing of Rosso’s that served as the model for this engraving. The work is dated 1542, which makes it one of the earliest reproductive prints after the decorative ensemble in Fontainebleau. The authorship of this engraving is a matter of dispute. Bartsch ascribed the work to Gaspar Reverdino, while Zerner drew attention to the stylistic resemblance to Domenico del Barbiere. In the final analysis Massari’s suggested attribution to Giulio Bonasone is not convincing either, so the source of this enigmatic print remains unclear.

Characteristic of the stylistic treatment of the engraving is the rough, almost coarse energy of execution. The figures are made to look squat and clumsy, while the rendering of perspective and space seems remarkably primitive. The heads with their wind-tousled hair are very expressive, lending the whole a bizarre note. It is as though the – probably Italian – artist were trying to turn Rosso’s Mannerist refinement into a simpler, more demotic style.

A very fine, tonal impression of the extremely rare first state: Before the cross-hatching on the wall to the left and the stippling on the ground and the two steps (II); before the address of Salamanca (III). With narrow margins around the inky platemark, partially trimmed on the platemark below. Minor defects, otherwise in excellent, untreated condition.

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