Description & Technical information

This remarkable drawing is an unusual addition to the corpus of drawings by Stefano della Bella. It does not relate to any known print by the artist, and may have been intended as a design for the frontispiece of a musical or theatrical book or manuscript, or perhaps as an autonomous work in its own right.

The drawing may nevertheless be associated with a number of the many ornament prints that were commissioned from Stefano della Bella by Parisian publishers. The motif of the seated nymphs finds parallels in some examples from a set of decorative etchings by della Bella, the Raccolta di varii cappriccii et nove inventioni di cartelle et ornamenti, published in Paris in 1646, while the nymphs and the form of the vase itself are akin to those found in a suite of six etchings of several different designs for vases, published as Raccolta di vasi diversi in c.1646.

The nymphs in the present sheet are particularly close to those flanking one of the vases in one of the Raccolta di vasi diversi etchings, as well as a preparatory drawing for the etching in the Louvre. As Phyllis Dearborn Massar has noted of the Raccolta di vasi diversi etchings, ‘Fantastic vases, often based on antique bronzes, were perenially favorite subjects with printmakers. Stefano outfantasied all of them, both in the vases themselves and their exuberant contents.’

The words of the sheet music which forms the central motif of this drawing seems to be a sonnet of sorts. Although the text is fragmentary, it can be read as ‘in mi fortuna / parlami al Core piaga d’Amore li ridarò / cieca importuna tu dici nò nò cieca impor- / tuna tu dici cosi(?) nò nò’, while the text continues at the bottom of the sheet with the words ‘si pur felice’.

Period:  1600-1750, 17th century
Origin:  Italy, Florence
Medium: Pen, Brown ink, Brown wash
Signature: Extensively inscribed on the musical scores at the centre and at the lower left.

Dimensions: 19.5 x 13 cm (7⁵/₈ x 5¹/₈ inches)
Provenance: Bernard Quaritch Ltd., London, in 1996 (as Carlo Antonio Buffagnotti)
Acquired from them by the Cattaneo collection
Hill-Stone Inc., New York
Galerie Paul Prouté, Paris, in 2004
Monica Streiff, Switzerland.
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints