Battista Franco

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Battista Franco
Psyche Before Zeus and the Council of the Gods
ca. 1552-1561
Pen and brown ink and wash, on paper.
6 5/8 x 7 1/2 inches (168 x 191 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
IV, 73

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Inscribed on recto, in lower right corner, in black chalk, possibly in imitation of Peter Lely's mark (see Lugt 2092 and 2093), "PL"; verso, at left, center, cropped by left edge of sheet, in pen and brown ink, "chao sang/ fioc sto pocho so/ qi acord sod/"; lower right corner, in graphite, "B. Franco 39"; upper left hand corner, in graphite, "215".

Unidentified collector (blind stamp: "W[?]" in upright oval); possibly Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), London (no mark; see Lugt 2092-2094); Johnathan Richardson, Sr. (1665-1745), London (Lugt 2184); Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.

The present drawing illustrates two moments from the Psyche legend. Above Psyche is transported by Mercury to Olympus and, below, Cupid presents Psyche to the Olympian gods.1 Franco produced several studies of Olympian banquets, which Anne Varrick Lauder suggests are probably related to ceiling decorations for a palace or villa, designed during Franco’s second Venetian period, from ca. 1551 until the end of the artist’s life.2 Lauder lists a series of extant drawings by Franco related or possibly related to the Psyche legend. Two of these – one now in the Teyler Museum, Haarlem, the other in the British Museum, London – are contained within circular and octagonal frames, respectively.3 Both drawings illustrate the same scene in which a female protagonist stands below Jupiter, Mercury and another god, possibly Pluto. Philip Pouncey and John Gere identified the female character as Psyche, whereas Carel van Tuyll van Serooskerken alternatively proposed that the drawings illustrate Prosperpina pleading with her husband Pluto and Jupiter on behalf of Eurydice or some other mortal.4 Unlike the Morgan study, these two scenes are shown more dramatically di sotto in sù, marking them more clearly as preparatory to ceiling decorations.

A faded collector’s mark resembling those of Sir Peter Lely (see L. 2092-2094) appears in the lower right corner. These marks are sometimes spurious and, as may be the case in the present example, faked.


  1. Wolk-Simon, in New York 1994, 127-28, no. 114.
  2. Lauder 2009, 272-73.
  3. Teyler Museum, Haarlem, inv. K II 071; British Museum, London, inv. Pp. 2-122.
  4. Pouncey and Gere 1983, 84-85, no. 122; Van Tuyll van Serooskerken 2000, 428-29, no. 457.

Selected references: Fairfax Murray 1905-12, 4: no. 73; New York 1994, 127-28, no. 114; Lauder 2009, 273, under no. 97.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, IV, 73, repr.


Watermark: none.

Associated names: 

Lely, Peter, Sir, 1618-1680, former owner.
Richardson, Jonathan, 1665-1745, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.

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