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Das Fossombroner Skizzenbuch.

The Fossombrone Sketchbook is, as Nesselrath states, no masterpiece. It appears to have been acquired by Gherardo Cibo in 1533, and the trace of an inscription on the first page indicates some connection to Giulio Romano. A relative of the della Rovere, Cibo is listed as an artist by Baldinucci; he was also a botanist, travelling a good deal in northern Europe. The sketchbook seems to have passed directly by descent to the library founded by Benedetto Passionei in Fossombrone.

The volume, already bound when it was filled with copies, is noteworthy as a compendium of ideas by artists close to Raphael. Two copies after Marcantonio's Modi have been canceled; a drawing of the so-called Melpomene now in the Louvre is one of the earliest records of it in the courtyard of the Cancelleria. Many drawings record antiquities in Rome and Tivoli, and three copy illustrations to Vitruvius, perhaps originally made in connection with Fabio Calvo's translation. The originals could not have been by a single hand, and Nesselrath characterizes the Sketchbook as a sort of portrait of Raphael's workshop based on at least one other sketchbook, itself made up of copies.

Nesselrath provides a brief history of other sketchbooks after the antique from the circle of Raphael. Building on the work of von Fabriczy, Egger, Ashby, Huelsen, and others, he essays a history of the Renaissance sketchbook as a phenomenon, identifying five types: original sketchbooks, model books, autobiographical sketchbooks, treatise- and corpus-sketchbooks, and souvenir-sketch books. The last three he associates with a new ideal of artistic autonomy and with the assigning of value to drawings for their own sake. Despite the poor quality of the Fossombrone drawings, Nesselrath argues that Cibo wanted the volume because he believed it reflected the hand of Giulio Romano, and that the sketchbook was acquired as a collectible item, not a useful one.

If this is true, then the question of falsification deserves closer attention. Though Nesselrath reports that Cibo was visited by the forger Alfonso Ceccarelli in 1566, he does not investigate the issue in relation to the sketchbook, beyond suggesting (somewhat hastily) that in the early 153Os Giulio's reputation was not yet so high that falsification might be anticipated; that a forger would have imitated Giulio's handwriting; and that each sheet presents a new composition. Some of those compositions, however (such as the abrupt juxtapositions of diverse elements on fols. 10v, 19v, 32v), seem too deliberately random. The compiler's intention may indeed be less relevant than his lack of sophistication as a draughtsman, and it surely remains possible that Cibo himself was responsible for some of these drawings, and that they are not all by one hand. The spiders in their webs drawn above architectural details from Tivoli hint at a lover of antiquity who, like Cibo, shared Pliny's interests in natural history.

The comparison of these prosaic drawings with studies by every artist associated with the Raphael shop in order to arrive at a hypothetical attribution to the "Anonymus Foro Semproniensis," reflects the rigor of a dissertation, but seems redundant here. On the other hand, most useful for the study of antiquity in the Renaissance, and of those artists who shared Raphael's archaeological passion, are the thorough entries for individual drawings. Nesselrath gives a brief history of the works depicted, citing other known drawings after the motif, so that his text is a rich source of information on the Baths of Diocletian, the Apollo Belvedere, the Capitoline lions, and so on.

This is the latest of the Warburg Institute's publications of sketchbooks after the antique. The preface is dated 1990, but the text is essentially that of Nesselrath's 1981 Ph.D. dissertation. Relevant new bibliography appears in an appendix, but the author has declined to incorporate the vast amount of material (especially concerning Raphael and Giulio Romano) that has appeared since 1981. The series is intended to accompany the Census of Ancient Works of Art and Architecture known in the Renaissance, and Nesselrath has been working to bring the Census online. The complexity of publishing this small sketchbook, of cross-referencing copies of copies, establishing archetypes and theorizing about purposes and intentions, and the need to keep bibliography current, all serve to emphasize the desirability of an open text, such as the computer can provide.

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Author:Cropper, Elizabeth
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1995
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