Attributed to GIUSEPPE BISON

Palmanova 1762 — 1844 Milan

Alternative Designs for Wall Decoration with Grotesques and Landscapes

brush and brown wash and watercolor over graphite(?). 13 x 91/2" (390 x 242 mm).

The young Bison trained in Venice but later followed commissions, often to decorate palaces and sometimes with the architect, G.A. Selva, to the towns of Ferrara, Padua, and Treviso before eventually returning to Venice. Sometimes his decorative projects involved working for the theatre, as in Trieste. Bison lived and worked in Treviso for twenty years and also worked in Brescia before finally settling, albeit unhappily, in Milan. Well-versed in fresco technique, he painted landscapes and decorative, ornamental designs as well as vedute in that medium. The present lovely example is likely a corner design for a curved ceiling. Bison employs a figure or 2 which bisects the corner, as he does also in a drawing in the same media at the Met. 1 A second drawing at the Met, inv. 67.7071, is a wall design, also in the same media and it incorporates some of the same motives: curliques, urns, scrolling leaf-like designs, framed landscapes, and attenuated figures. These are not uncommon within the artist's prodigious preparatory and exploratory extant drawings. Even the colors of watercolor applied are often the same. Other relevant designs for wall or ceiling decoration by Bison are found in the Uffizi and a number are in the Musei Civici in Trieste.2

The present design is graceful, delicate and assured. Like the antique and 16th c. groteschi wall decorations to which it harks back, this richly complex design includes mythical winged ccreatures, part human, part animal, exotic birds, a triumphant hornblower, cameo portraits, tromp l'oeil ironwork, stone architectural frames about a painted landscape, putto heads, foliage and wreaths, Roman inspired urns. The fresco decorations of such 16th c. specialists as Giovanni da Udine, Perino del Vaga and/or Luzio Romano, artists active primarily in Rome, were inspired by the discoveries of ancient Roman villas, even before those at Pompeii and Herculaneum were discovered. The decorations in the Logge of the Vatican, in Castel Sant'Angelo and the Villa Farnese at Caprarola are some of the notable examples.

Bison's creations also exhibit a familiarity with baroque and rococco design elements.


inv. 1992.1015. The Met's design though a smaller drawing shows the entire design for a the same media.


Fabrizio Magani, G.B. Bison, fig. 57,