October 23, 2005

De’ Grassi’s Animals

In the last issue of FMR magazine (no. 8 in the new format), there is an essay by Maria Grazia Recanati (translated from the Italian by Judith Landry) entitled A Fabulous Bestiary which describes the drawings and paintings of animals in the Taccuino di disegni (sketchbook) associated with the Milanese painter, illuminator, sculptor and architect Giovannino de’ Grassi (d. 1398). The essay is accompanied by many beautiful reproductions of pages from the Taccuino, of which I have scanned just a few: details from these follow below.

Detail of a drawing by Giovannino de' Grassi of a falcon-like bird from f4v of his Taccuino.

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Detail of a drawing by Giovannino de' Grassi of a caricatured goat from f4v of his Taccuino.

Recanati writes that only the first seven folios of the Taccuino can be attributed with any certainty to de’ Grassi himself. The later pages were apparently decorated by several different hands—including, probably, Giovannino’s son Salomone—during the first two decades of the fifteenth century. I have mentioned the decorated alphabet from this book before: according to Recanati, this probably dates from around 1410, and shows the influence (and perhaps even the handiwork) of an artist known only as ‘the Master of the Modena Hours.’

Detail of a drawing by Giovannino de' Grassi of a barbary ape from f5r of his Taccuino.

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Detail of a painting by an unkown artist of a cheetah from f21v of the Taccuino.

The Taccuino’s whereabouts during the later fifteenth, and early sixteenth centuries are not known. From an inscription in the book, it is surmised that it was in possession of the Olmo (or Lolmo) family who worked as calligraphers in Bergamo in the later 16thC. It later passed to the Licinio family and then to one Alessandro Tassi (1691-1771). After Tassi’s death, the book came into the possession of Leonino Secco Suardo, who donated it to the Bergamo Library, now the Bibliotheca Civica Angelo Mai, in 1845.

Detail of a painting by an unkown artist of a roebuck from f16v of the Taccuino.

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Detail of a painting by an unkown artist of a hare from f16v of the Taccuino.

These drawings and paintings were made with a degree of ‘attention to observation from life’ that was very unusual in late-mediæval Europe. Besides the pages I’ve scanned here, there are others depicting homo salvaticus (a shaggy, club-wielding wild-man); a lion killing a deer; a pack of dogs devouring a boar (a design strikingly similar to another contemporary manuscript illumination); an heraldic griffin; a peacock; and an eagle’s nest… Click on the details above to see them in context.

Posted by misteraitch at October 23, 2005 10:52 AM
Comments

Sempre brillante e interessante.
Complimenti

Posted by: Paesanino on October 24, 2005 10:06 AM

Why on earth are the fox's and the leopard's heads carefully rubbed off?
(click on the rabbit to see it).
It seems to me far too precise to be random degradation...

Posted by: Abie on November 7, 2005 09:43 PM
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