North Italian, Nicoletto da Modena?

ca. 1500

Design for a Medagliere for Isabella d'Este

10 3/4 x 7 1/4" (27.2 x 18.5 mm.) laid down to the 18th c. pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, blue and red washes. Album leaf (see provenance below) which has been cut down.

Cassiano dal Pozzo (Turin 1588-1657 Rome); Pope Clemens XI Albani (Urbino 1649-1721 Rome); Cardinal Alessandro Albani (Urbino 1692- 1779 Rome); King George III of England (1738-1820); Richard Dalton (ca. 1715-1791); John McGowan ( Scotland 1726-1780); Charles Townley (England 1737-1805); William Sterling Maxwell (Scotland); auction of his Cassiano dal Pozzo drawings at Phillips, London, 12 Dec. 1990, lot 2913 "sculpture" Album Fol 112, together with an architectural plan for a fountain by another artist; buyer unknown.

The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo: A Catalogue Raisonne, Renaissance and Later Architecture and Ornament Drawings," Cat. No. 110/111;
Ivy L. Mumford, "Some Decorative Aspects of the Imprese of Isabelle d'Este (1474-1539)", in Italian Studies, Vol. 34, 1979, pp. 69-70: Elena Vaiani, Helen Whitehouse and Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodino, The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo: A Catalogue raisonne, Part A. VIII: Egyptian and Roman Antiquities and Renaissance Decorative Arts, 2018.

This intriguing drawing combines two key interests of Cassiano dal Pozzo, Roman antiquities and ornamental design. It is also one of the earlier drawings acquired by that distinguished humanist, the bulk of his collection being commissioned by him. The draftsman is north Italian, and Prof. Paul Joannides has suggested an attribution to Nicoletto da Modena on the basis of stylistic criteria. Nicoletto's drawings are rare, but one can find any number of his engravings which also reveal an empathy for an earlier style. In this drawing, the portraits of the Roman Emperors are drawn in the archaic style of the 14th century.

The drawing was likely commissioned by Isabelle d'Este as evidenced by the number XX7 which relates to one of the Imprese of Isabelle d'Este (Ferrara 1474-1539 Mantua), Duchess of Mantua. As a child Isabelle studied Roman history and learned to translate Greek and Latin (the former would become her favourite language). She was also a patron of the arts. It is certainly plausible that she would have collected or sought to maintain a collection of ancient medals and commission an artist to design a cabinet for these holdings. The graceful scrolling and foliate designs would be typical of the early renaissance, her epoch.