Jacopo Strada (Mantua 1510-1588 Vienna), and Studio
Designs for two candlesticks and a covered salt cellar resting on turtles pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk on paper 28.7 x 42.2cm (11 5/16 x 16 5/8in).
EXHIBITED: San Francisco, 2007, Jacopo Strada (1510-1588) Mannerist Splendor: Extravagant Designs for a Royal Table
LITERATURE: S. Lawrence, with a preface by R. F. Johnson, Jacopo Strada (1510-1588) Mannerist Splendor: Extravagant Designs for a Royal Table, exhib. cat. (San Francisco, 2007), ill., p. 47
Strada was a renowned artist and courtier who worked in service for many of the most powerful rulers of sixteenth century Europe. Both technically and stylistically, these drawings are significantly related to the silver designs of Giulio Romano, in whose workshop Strada was trained. The painterly use of brown wash and ink to articulate the sculptural quality of the relief decoration demonstrates a remarkable facility of draftsmanship. The fantastic inventions of form after the antique and familiar generalisations of mythological subjects indicate an artist who was well-versed in humanist culture and ancient artifact.
After a succession of impressive commissions primarily concerned with monumental designs first at the Habsburg court in Vienna and then in Prague, Strada was appointed Court Antiquary in 1564 to the Imperial Court in Vienna. The significance of his important status in this role was immortalised in Titian's portrait of Strada which now hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Knighted in 1573, his daughter, Katharina, became the mistress of Emperor Rudolf II, by whom she had six children, which alliance no doubt furthered the artist's standing with the imperial court. He remained in the post of Court Antiquary until 1579 and continued as part of the court household in Vienna until his death in 1588.
These drawings belong to a tradition of goldsmith albums that were intended for circulation to both patrons and craftsmen. Some of these folios were imaginative graphic restorations of ancient vases that complemented collections of classical antiquities. Others, such as these, show designs of fantastic vessels for decorative display. While recognisable as dishes, bowls, salt cellars and other components of a dining service, most of these highly ornate objects would have been displayed on a sideboard rather than put to use. They were probably produced to demonstrate to prospective clients the range and beauty of designs offered by a goldsmith's shop. It is likely that few if any of these designs were ever realised: indeed, in many cases the complexity of form made their execution impossible. The drawings, beautifully rendered in ink and brown wash, were above all a showcase of the artist's powers of disegno and invention.
The present drawing and the following three lots were exhibited along with thirty-four other drawings in San Francisco in 2007, with an accompanying scholarly catalogue, written by Sarah Lawrence, of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York. The present drawings were not among those offered at Sotheby's New York on 27 January, 2010.