April 10, 2007

Della Bella

The images that follow are details from scans of etchings by the Florentine printmaker Stefano della Bella (1610-1664), as reproduced in the volume Stefano della Bella: Incisioni, edited by Anna Forlani Tempesti, and published by La Nuova Italia in Florence in 1972.

Della Bella was a prolific draftsman and etcher who succeeded Jacques Callot at the Medici grand-ducal court as a professional designer-printmaker. The roots of his graphic style lie in the calligraphic Mannerism of Callot, but during the course of his career Della Bella developed into an exuberant Baroque artist. His work remained influential for many decades and has been actively collected up to the present day. Della Bella was born into an artistic family; his father was a sculptor, and his three brothers all became artists.
Detail from a sheet of eight geography-themed playing-cards designed and etched by Stefano della Bella, ca. 1644.


Detail from Stefano della Bella's portrait etching of the comic actor Carlo Cantù, 1640s.
He became a protégé of the powerful Medici family and in 1633 was sent to Rome, where he lived in the Medici palace. There he developed his skills, making original drawings of public festivities, architecture, landscapes, and antique sculpture. In 1639 Della Bella was sent to Paris in the retinue of the Medici ambassador to the court of Louis XIII. There he remained until 1650, executing print commissions for Parisian publishers and for prominent patrons such as the Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. In 1650 Della Bella returned to Florence. (Source).
Detail from Stefano della Bella's etching 'Death on the Battlefield,' ca. 1646-7.


Detail from Stefano della Bella's etched frontispiece for Scarron's Works, 1649.
Unlike most etchers of his time, who had careers as painters, della Bella devoted himself almost exclusively to printmaking, although he is also famed for the spirited drawings he made in preparation for his prints. Despite their higher degree of finish, his etchings retain much of the fluidity and dynamism of his drawings. […] Soldiers, beggars, satyr families, animals, gardens, ruins, splendid festivals, and scenes of everyday life are among the artist᾿s themes. (Source).
Detail from Stefano della Bella's etching 'Statue of Appenino' 1650s.


Detail from Stefano della Bella's etching 'Caccia allo Struzzo' ('Ostrich Hunt') 1650s.
Throughout his life, Della Bella drew in the open air, reporting on important events and places and rarely copying others' compositions. He made over a thousand prints and thousands of drawings. […] He etched subjects from the Bible and lives of the saints, portraits, and allegories. His genre scenes included images of animals, children, and exotic figures; and views of public life, rural scenes, marines, hunting, and military scenes. […] His ornamental prints included ornaments for theses, frontispieces, vignettes, drawing aids, games, and rebuses; his delicate asymmetries, sense of fantasy, and inventiveness prefigure the rococo of a century later. (Source).
Detail from one of Stefano della Bella's 'Ornamente e Grottesche' series of etchings, ca. 1653.


Detail from another of Stefano della Bella's 'Ornamente e Grottesche' series of etchings, ca. 1653.

The present images are as follows: (i) two of a group of eight cards from a series designed in 1644 ‘intended for the instruction of the young Louis XIII’ (ii) a portrait of the commedia dell’arte actor Carlo Cantú, known as Buffet or Buffetto, who was renowned for his portrayal of Brighella; (iii) La Morte sul campo di battaglia (‘Death on the Battlefield’): one of a number of ‘Dance-of-Death’-themed designs by della Bella; (iv) A frontispiece for an edition of Les Oeuvres de Scarron where the poet is shown seated—his back turned to the viewer, so as to conceal his deformities—and surrounded by caricatures of the nine muses; (v) a view of Giambologna’s colossal statue of the god Apennino at Pratolino…

Detail from Stefano della Bella's etching 'Il Vaso de' Medici ,' from 'Vedute Romane' 1650s.


Detail from Stefano della Bella's etching 'L'arco di Costantino,' from 'Vedute Romane' 1650s.

…(vi) at first I supposed that this splendid ostrich was being portrayed as a natural-historical curiosity, not noticing the hounds pursuing close behind it, this etching being from a series entitled Le Cacce (‘The Hunts’); both (vii) and (viii) belong to a series of ‘Ornaments and Grotesques’ dating from about 1653; while (ix) and (x) are part of della Bella’s album of Vedute Romane (‘Roman Views’): the first depicting the grounds of the Villa Medici, and specifically the enormous antique marble vase that stood there, which is shown being sketched intently by the future Grand Duke Cosimo III; the second portraying the ruins of the Arch of Constantine.

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Posted by: Fitzroy Cyclonic on April 12, 2007 05:37 PM

The four continents reminded me of Tiepolo's murals at the Wurzburg Reseidenz: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/t/tiepolo/gianbatt/index.html

Posted by: VG on April 13, 2007 12:41 AM

Thank you.
You provide great images which prompt connections and provoke ideas.
This is such a treat.

Posted by: nf on April 13, 2007 02:17 AM
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