Attributed to Benvenuto Cellini

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Attributed to Benvenuto Cellini
1500-1571
Designs for jewelry, cups, vases, placques, pediments and other decoration or ornaments
after 1604
Pen and brown ink on paper, mounted on cardboard.
various dimensions
2006.17
Provenance: 
Private collection, Rome; from whom purchased in 1908 by Dr. George Charles Williamson (1858-1942), London (no mark; see Lugt 2578); from whom purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); J.P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.
Description: 

The album features fifteen folios of designs for decorative arts and jewelry. Beyond a connection with metalwork, its association with the sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini stems from a dedicatory inscription on the album’s first page, which reads: “a gloria eterna / de meser Benvenuto / Celini somo scultore / morto en fiorenza / l’ano 1570. io Rafaelo / da montelupo scultore / farne per suo ricordo” (for the eternal glory of Master Benvenuto Cellini, sculptor, who died in Florence in 1570, I, Raffaello da Montelupo, sculptor, made this for his memory). The corpus of Cellini’s drawings is not firmly established, though the small and varied collection of his accepted sheets is qualitatively stronger than the tentative studies in the Morgan album.1

Alternatively, the album’s dedication has been interpreted to mean that its drawings were made by Raffaello da Montelupo, not Cellini.2 However, the style and technique of the album’s draftsmanship differ from Raffaello’s graphic personality. The album was created by a right-handed draftsman, with hatching drawn from upper right to lower left, that is, the opposite of Raffaello’s left-handed technique. The drawings, therefore, cannot be his. Moreover, the inscription in question is not in Raffaello’s hand and cites 1570 as Cellini’s death date. Because Raffaello da Montelupo died in December 1566, he can also be ruled out as the author of the unreliable inscription.3

Though it is not known who made the album, its contents reveal that its production relied on various preexisting sources. For example, several of the present drawings reproduce engravings by the French goldsmith, medalist and engraver, Etienne Delaune. Fol. 10 verso and fol. 12 verso both copy the right-hand side of two different designs for hand mirrors.4 Similarly, fol. 2 recto copies the handle of another of Delaune’s engravings of a mirror, while fol. 9 borrows from the frame of the same design.5 Fol. 14 also derives from Delaune’s prints, most notably the sketch at upper right loosely copies his engraving of Minerva in a niche.6 The album’s unknown draftsman may have also looked to other drawings, as suggested by the similarity in type between the present studies and a group of drawings, now in the Ashmolean, also attributed to Delaune and dated ca. 1550-80. Compare, for example, the pendants on fol. 4 recto,7 the rings of fol. 8, fol. 13 recto and fol. 15 recto;8 and the close-hinged links for an ornamental chain on fol. 14 recto,9 with similarly conceived designs in Oxford. The album’s creator also looked to other, later engravings. Fol. 10 recto copies a plate from Daniel Hallier’s series of six engraved designs for jewelry, published in Augsburg in 1604 under the title Hic Libellus Aurifabris adeo commodus est e vitilis eivsq usus necessarius Daniel Hallier syncero corte exsculpsit.10 With minor variations, fol. 10 reproduces the specific and intricate elements of Hallier’s design, including the border of the source folio.

These references show that the Morgan album is a collection of copies after French and German ornamental designs related to metalwork and jewelry, whose terminus post quem places it at least after 1604. A more precise date and motivation for such a compendium remain unclear. The album has sustained water damaged and, at some point in its history, the folios were silked and inserted into modern wove pages in a blue morocco binding. Both of these conditions have created further – possibly deliberate – complications in understanding the conditions under which it was created. These, along with the suspicious dedication, may suggest that the present drawings were made well after the seventeenth century.

According to a letter sent from George Charles Williamson to Pierpont Morgan, the album was found in a private library in Rome, bound into another volume (unpublished letter in the Morgan archives, 17 August 1908). Williamson was a scholar, dealer and Morgan’s agent who compiled the latter’s collection of painted miniatures. It seems likely that Williamson, or someone acting on his behalf, assembled the album in its current form for Morgan.

Footnotes:

  1. For a summary of drawings given to Cellini, see Cordellier 2004, 101-05.
  2. Whiteley 1996, 28, note 4.
  3. Verellen 1981, 66.
  4. Pollet 2003, 2: 779-80, no. D.7; 777-78, no. D.5. A relationship between the album and Dalaume’s engraved designs for mirrors was first noted by Hayward 1976, 23.
  5. Ibid., 2: 781, no. D.9.
  6. Ibid., 2: 650, no. 335.
  7. Whiteley 1996, 234-35, nos. 408, 409.
  8. Ibid., 214-16, nos. 365-68.
  9. Ibid., 208-15, nos. 354-63.
  10. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, inv. E.2196-1911.
Bibliography: 

Selected references: Irvins 1918, 40 (as Cellini); Kris 1932, 27 (as attributed to Cellini); Hayward 1976, 23 (as Italian, mid-16th c.); Whiteley 1996, 1, 28, note 4 (as attributed to Raffaello da Montefeltro [sic]).

Notes: 

Watermark: Fragments of a circle on leaves II, III, and XII. Watermark, beta radiograph.
The drawings are based on various sources, including Etienne Delaune.
Housed in a box as a two-volume set; vol. 2 consists of photoraphs of the drawings in vol. 1.

Associated names: 

Raffaello, da Montelupo, 1504-1566, Formerly attributed to.
Delaune, Etienne, 1518?-1583, Formerly attributed to.
Williamson, George Charles, 1858-1942, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.
Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont), 1867-1943, former owner.

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