Attributed to ANDREA CAMASSEI
Bevagna 1602 — 1649 Rome
Amarilli Chasing a Nymph while Mirtillo Despairs
from Guarini's "Pastor Fido"
black chalk underdrawing, red chalk, red chalk wash, touches of black chalk on top, on paper laid down. watermark: within a circle 3 mounts and above objects not esp. legible. horiontal oval. 103/4 x 141/8" (275 x 360mm). the old French mat is insribed Francesco Romanelli. inscribed on the verso of the mount in a modern hand: Gian Francesco Romanelli Viterbo- 1617-1662 and Coll: Kaseman.
This gorgeous drawing was previously thought to be the work of Romanelli.1 To my knowledge however, Romanelli never exhibited this definitive and assured technique, nor depicted subject figures with such exuberance and robusticity. Though Camassei's drawings are not found in substantial number, there are perhaps ten at the Teylers Museum which display a range of his drawing styles (a seated male nude in red chalk, inv. # KI 014, is technically comparable due to its definitive contour line and shading).2 A number at the Louvre employ a similar use of red chalk.3 At Windsor Castle, there are two single figure chalk studies which are from his mature period as is the present drawing.4 And at the BM,there are 2 rare compositional drawings, one of which is in brush & brown wash and extremely unlike anything else known, yet for an engraving. The other is debatable in attribution: Sacchi or Camassei.5 However there are a number of mythological paintings by the artist with a comparable morphology of the figures (reminiscent of his teacher, Domenichino) and that are Poussinesque in composition. These are at the Prado and the Galleria Nazionale in Rome.6 It was Aidan Weston-Lewis who kindly, cleverly and tentatively first suggested the attribution to Camassei.7
Camassei worked extensively for the Barberini and was a favorite of Urban VIII.8 In addition to a number of easel paintings and frescoes which he executed for them, he was the costume and scenery designer for their theatrical productions. We know that he was also responsible for the designs engraved in a publication of one of these performances, Erminia at the Jordan River by Rospigliosi.
Very successful in his lifetime, Camassei worked for many of Rome's noble families, including in the palaces of the Rospigliosi, Pamphili, Sachetti, Mattei, Rondini, the Colonna, and the Altieri.9 Mythological subjects were the taste of these elite patrons. As many frescoes have not survived in good state if at all, it may have been that our drawing was either preparatory or a presentation drawing for one of them. At the time of his death Camassei had many unfulfilled commissions from all over Europe.
I am grateful to Daniel Javitch for identifying the subject of this drawing which is likely "a representation of the game of blind man's buff in Guarini's Pastor Fido, Act III. Amarilli is chasing a nymph while Mirtillo, who loves her, is on the side in the background." The play had its first dramatic representation in honor of the nuptials of the Duke of Savoy Catharine of Austria in 1585.10 It is a pastoral tragicomedy featuring Silvio and Dorinda, polished in style. It was translated into many languages and was popular during the 17th century, setting the pattern for a code of refinement and gallantry that lasted until the late 18th century.
This drawing was cut down to an oval format most likely when it was detached from the 18th c. album into which it had been previously installed. It was cut methodically; one can see the geometric pattern on the back which instructed the user of the scissors.
An inscription on the back of the mount, claims the drawing for Romanelli. While this inscription looks 20th c., it may be that it was transferred from an old inscription on part of the paper that was not retained, for instance, in a former corner of the drawing before it was cut to an oval format.
The Teylers Museum's ten drawings by Camassei, comprise several in red chalk and several complete compositions, all of which are a decent representation of his graphic oeuvre.
see Jocunde web-site under Camassei, 4 drawings in red chalk inscribed Camassei (from an old collection) which are likely studies of Antique heads . These are, while studies and not finished compositions, compatible technically.
See the site www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/90490909/apollo and also 90460. There are 2 study sheets of Apollo for the ceiling painting Apollo and the Muses once in the Barberini and known throught the engraving in Aedes Barberinae. These drawings are closest in period to ours.
See the British Musems' online collection.
Master of the Niobids and the Hunt of Diana in Rome, painted for Taddeo Barberini 1638-9; The Lupercalia Feasts : celebrations in which sacrifices were offered to the god Pan and the goddess Lucina, from ca. 1635, now in the Prado. Also a painting in the Vatican of St Peter Baptizing in Prison Processo e Martiniano from 1630-35.
In person, in Edinburgh in late Decenber, 2014.
See Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, Seventeenth Century Baberini Docments and Inventories of Art , NY, 1975, pp. 472-473, etc.
in the Biographical Dictionary of Italian Artists, Vol. 17 (1974) and on the web....Andrei Camassei by Sandro Vasco.
published in 1590 in Venice; 20th rev. ed., 1602, Venice; Eng. trans. The Faithful Shepherd, 1647.