1557 — Genoa — 1629
Feast of the Gods
traces of black chalk underdrawing, pen & brown ink, brush & wash w white gouache heightening on tan paper (both sides). 67/8 x 111/8"(174 x 283mm). inscribed center recto Perino Del Vaga in a modern hand and l/l Feast of the Gods, also in a modern hand. On the verso: black chalk sketches, inscribed: Pietro Buonacorsi 1500-1547 in a modern hand. and pirino del uage in an old hand.
This confidently drawn mythological scene, influenced significantly by Perino del Vaga in both handling and treatment of subject matter, is by Bernardo Castello, as first suggested by Julien Stock and confirmed by Jonathan Bober.1 Castello apprenticed with Andrea Semino and Luca Cambiaso but then travelled in Italy absorbing the work of other artists and developing his own style. He was a restless and ambitious artist who, with Paggi, were the principal artists in Genoa after the departure of Cambiaso for Spain in 1583. Castello was very interested in literature and friendly with poets, some of whom advised him on iconography. He met Tasso and prepared drawings for the illustrations of Gerusalemme liberata published in Genoa in 1590.2
As well as seeing Perino's work in Rome, Bernardo would have seen the magnificent frescoes in the Palazzo Doria (Principe) begun in 1529.3 But this drawing borrows from Perino's fresco entitled Convito degli Dei in the Castel Sant Angelo in Rome. And in turn Perino's figures were borrowed from Raphael's design for frescoes in the Farnesina. Both frescoes pair off figures at either side of the two central figures behind the table, and each figure in front at the left leans back with his or her right arm extended and seen from behind. These are the elements borrowed by Castello. However, the disposition of the figures in the present drawing is mostly different from the earlier artists' versions and the longer table here is more crowded, especially at either end. Bernardo's further interest in these figure types and style are in evidence in his fresco decoration of the ceiling of the Sala di Psiche in the Palazzo Giustiniani - Odescalchi in Bassano Romano, dated 1609.
Many frescoed versions of the Feast of the Gods were commissioned for princely palaces in the 16th century throughout Italy. This drawing is highly finished and may have served as a presentation piece for such a fresco. Indeed it is the opinion of one specialist that the present drawing is by Prospero Fontana and related to that artist's fresco of this subject.
Seated in the front, on the left is Hercules upon his lion and with his club. To the right is Juno with her peacock who gestures with extended arm to Mercury who converses with Venus, standing with Cupid. As we continue around the table we find Diana with her crescent moon headress, followed by 2 male gods without attributes. At the center of the table must be Jupiter holding his bolt of lightning. To his right is Mars in his armour, followed by a male and 2 females goddesses (perhaps one is Minerva) and then Neptune with his trident who is seated next to Hercules.
Stock by e-mail on the basis of a photo in January of 2013; Bober in person in NY in late January 2013.
Castello's drawing for this project were engraved by Agostino Carracci and Giacomo Franco. There were later editions as well.
Andrea Doria invited Perino to Genoa where he helped design and decorate the newly rebuilt Palazzo del Principe and executed numerous altarpieces and designs for tapestries. Fresco decoration began in 1529, starting with a now destroyed Quos Egos from the Aeneid. Perino's ornamental decoration consisted of frescoed historical and mythological subjects together with fanciful and graceful arabesque sculptural and architectural details. Among the principal works are: the War between the Gods and Giants, Horatius Codes defending the Bridge, and the Fortitude of Mutius Scaevola. (The most important work of all, the Shipwreck of Acneas, is no longer extant.) These superb works lead to a quasi-Roman school of art in the Ligurian city.