Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Nymph of Fontainebleau

French (Fontainebleau) Painter (third quarter 16th century)
Oil on wood
26 x 47 3/4 in. (66 x 121.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Heyward Cutting, 1942
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inscription: Inscribed: (bottom) O PHIDIAS O APELLES QVIDQVAM NE ORNATIVS VESTRIS TEMPORIBVS EXCOGITARI POTVIT EA SCVLPTVRA CVIVS HIC PICTVRAM CERNITIS QVAM / FRANCISCVS PRIMVS FRANCORVM REX POTENTISS BONARVM ARTIVM AC LITERARVM PATER SVB DIANÆ A VENATV COQVIESCETIS / ATQVE VRNAM FONTISBELLAQVÆ EFFVNDENTIS STATVA DOMI SVÆ INCHOATAM RELIQVIT– (O Phidias, O Apelles, could anything more excellent have been devised in your times than that sculpture, of which you see here a picture, that Francis I, king of the Franks, the most mighty father of fine arts and literature, left unfinished in his home, surrounding a figure of Diana resting from the chase and emptying the urn of the Fountain of Beautiful Water); (below central medallion) F with a crown encircling the stem, within a wreath (this and the flaming salamander above the central medallion are devices of Francis I)
Mrs. Heyward Cutting Sr., Paris (until d. 1917); her daughter, Madame de Constantinovitch, Paris (1917–d. 1921); her nephew, Heyward Cutting, Far Hills, New Jersey (1921–d. 1926); Mrs. Heyward (Constance R.) Cutting, Far Hills, New Jersey (1926–42)
Louise Burroughs. "A Souvenir of Fountainebleau." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (April 1943), pp. 251–53, ill., attributes our picture to a Flemish artist active at Fountainebleau in the last quarter of the 16th century; notes that it depicts, with slight variations, Rosso Fiorentino's design [the central part of which appears to have been carried out by Primaticcio] for a decorative panel in the Galerie François I; suggests that the direct source for our painting was a print by René Boyvin based on Rosso's plan and bearing the same inscription as our picture; mentions another painting after the Boyvin engraving in the Seillière collection in Paris in 1931; notes that the subject of the central medallion is the legend of the origin of the name of Fontainebleau [see Notes] .

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 50–51, ill., attributes it to a Flemish painter active at Fountainebleau and dates it to the third quarter of the 16th century; observes that both this work and the Sellière painting derive from an engraving by René Boyvin after a Rosso composition; notes that a painting with this subject was in the sale of the Carleton Gates collection, New York, 1876, but from the description in the sale catalogue, it cannot be determined whether it was ours, the Sellière example, or a third version.

The School of Fountainebleau: An Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Etchings and Sculpture, 1530–1619. Exh. cat., Fort Worth Art Center. Austin, Tex., 1965, pp. 58–59, note that our painting is derived from the print which is given here to Pierre Millan [or Milan]; call the Seillière version probably a copy of the original composition by Rosso.

Henri Zerner. The School of Fountainebleau, Etchings and Engravings. New York, 1969, foldout inside back cover, n. 7, observes that our painting and the Seillière version appear to be based on an engraving which he believes was begun by Pierre Milan and completed by Boyvin in 1554.

Henri Zerner in L'École de Fontainebleau. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1972, p. 325, suggests that the central motif is based on a sculpture without any apparent relationship to the Galerie François I or to Rosso, probably a relief destined to ornament the pedestal of a statue.

Ian Wardropper. "The Flowering of the French Renaissance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Summer 2004), pp. 17–18, ill. (color).

The subject of the oval framed at the center of this composition is the origin of the name of Fontainebleau: a thirsty hunting dog named Bleau separated from its master and found in the forest a clear, pure spring; his master, "one of our kings," named the spring after him "la Fontaine de Bleau."

This painting and one in the collection of Baron Seillière, Paris, are derived from an engraving (Robert-Dumesnil catalogue, no 18) which has been given variously to René Boyvin, Pierre Milan and, most recently, to both, jointly (see Zerner 1969). Both paintings bear the inscription that appears on the print. Rosso Fiorentino is given credit for the engraving's design, which was used for a decoration on the south wall of the central section of the Galerie François I in the Palace of Fountainebleau. Rosso died before the scheme was completed and only the decorative framework was carried out; in place of the central medallion is a painting by Francesco Primaticcio of Danae.

For information about the Seillière painting, see Barbet de Jouy, Gazette des Beaux-Arts 2 (1861), pp. 7–12, who mentions the engraving by Boyvin and publishes the Seillière picture, once in the collection of Cardinal Fesch, later at Château d'Anet, and in 1861 in the possession of Count de Laborde. See also Kurt Kusenberg, Le Rosso, 1931, p. 112 n. 292, p. 118 n. 318.
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