Classical Female Figure (Diana or Venus) with Two Infants

Francesco Primaticcio Italian

Not on view

The Italian artist Primaticcio went to France early in his career to work for the French king, Francis I. Although most of Primaticcio's energies went into decorating the great palace of Fontainebleau, the present drawing was probably executed for Anet, the château built for Henry II's mistress, Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566). The main figure in the drawing may be Diana: although she lacks her attribute of the crescent crown on her head, she points at the crescent moon at upper left. Diane de Poitiers, was frequently alluded to through the portrayals of Diana, goddess of the hunt, and her attributes. Alternatively, the subject of the drawing was tentatively identified as Venus with Eros and Anteros, when published in 1986

Three other drawings by Primaticcio relating to his work at Anet survive; they are the same size and are executed in the same delicate manner with light brown ink and wash. Like this drawing, they illustrate scenes from the story of the mythological goddess Diana, and it has been suggested that they were for a series of stained-glass windows. The emphasis on outline and the bold, simple design corroborate this idea. The sheet is annotated by a well-known early collector in pen and dark brown ink at lower left: "228."; and on verso at center: "cxlij" terminating in a paraph. Hitherto unnoticed, the paper contains a watermark, cropped down the middle by the left border, depicting a stylized bunch of grapes (closest to Briquet 13073). It is typical of paper manufactured in Lyons, ca. 1565; more naturalistic variants of this type of watermark date to the late 15th century.

Classical Female Figure (Diana or Venus) with Two Infants, Francesco Primaticcio (Italian, Bologna 1504/5–1570 Paris), Pen and brown ink, highlighted with white gouache, over traces of black chalk, stylus and compass construction; traces of squaring in black chalk

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