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    Bears inscription l.m. Marco da Faenza

    Pen & ink on laid paper

    40.6 x 20.7 cm



    With Hal O'Nians, London;

    From whom purchased August 1964 (for £45);

    Private Collection, Canada



    Hal O'Nians, London, Old Master Drawings Exhibition, April 1964, no.91 (as Marco Marchetti)



    The present work can be compared to a number of sheets attributed to Giovanni da Udine in institutional collections, including a Sketchbook Sheet of Ornamental Studies (Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, acc. no. 1985.327.2); Orpheus singing to the animals and various sketches of vases and heads, (Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, inv 2250 v); Etudes de grotesques and Croquis d'ornements (Louvre Collections, Paris, INV 11094 & 3349); Copy after an Ancient Roman Fresco (Royal Collections, Windsor, RCIN 909567); Study of Grotesque Ornaments, sold at Swann Auction Galleries, New York, 24.01.2005, Lot 12; and Studio per motivi decorativi di logge (Raccolte Storiche dell'Accademia di Brera, Fondo Frizzoni, Milan, FF3529) [see images 7-12 respectively]. 



    The 16th century saw the rise of a new class of artists who specialised primarily in painting the decorative elements of large interior commissions, but who were able to make their name in this field and not remain anonymous as once they might have. The taste for grotteschi (literally 'Grotesque' decorations) of the sort that had abounded in classical Rome, with decorative designs incorporating flowers, putti and anything else that the artist could include, flourished during this period, and many of artists who specialised in the field sustained entire careers with commissions to produce complex schemes of this sort. 


    Jennifer Montagu wrote recently of this now-comparatively recherché group of decorative artists, ‘Most of these painters of elegant and inventive grotesques were known only to specialists: their names appear in the accounts for decorations of the time…and a few scholars had begun the task of differentiating between them. If this was difficult to achieve by examining the paintings…the distinction between their drawing styles if often easier.’ [1]


    The previously inscribed attribution to Marco Marchetti (called Da Faenza) to the lower middle of our sheet is understandable in this context, as it was he above all others that Vasari praised in the field of grotteschi. Marchetti's extant decorative designs are comparatively scarce: all of them include the use of sepia wash to varying extents, and he tended not to use the cross-hatching technique seen here to create light and shade, suggesting that his name is not an appropriate one for the present work. 



    Giovanni da Udine was born in Udine and was apprenticed to Giovanni Martini and subsequently to Giorgione in Venice. After these studies he joined Raphael's workshop in Rome, where he became particularly inspired by the Roman decorations discovered after the recent excavations of the city's classical sites: da Udine found his metier at this pivotal moment, from thenceforth specialising in mural decorations all'antica, after he went with Raphael to see Nero's newly rediscovered Domus aurea. The scene was described in Vasari's Life of Giovanni da Udine: '[After] the excavations [were] made at S. Pietro in Vincula, among the ruins and remains of the Palace of Titus, in the hope of finding figures, certain rooms were discovered, completely buried under the ground, which were full of little grotesques, small figures, and scenes, with other ornaments of stucco in low-relief. Whereupon, Giovanni going with Raffaello, who was taken to see them, they were struck with amazement, both the one and the other, at the freshness, beauty, and excellence of those works, for it appeared to them an extraordinary thing that they had been preserved for so long a time'


    When Raphael died in 1520, Giovanni worked thenceforth with Giulio Romano, his former colleague's best-known student. Returning to his hometown in 1527 after the sack of Rome, Giovanni was summoned to Florence by the Medici, who commissioned from him a series of decorative projects. By 1534, he was back in Udine, where he was involved in many further interior projects, a number of which were never completed and so give little idea of what his final works looked like. Da Udine was buried in the Pantheon in Rome, just as his friend and collaborator Raphael had been. 

    • Notes & Bibliography


      [1] J Montagu, 'I disegni del Codice Resta di Palermo by Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò' [Review], in Master Drawings, Spring 2009, vol.47, no.1, p.95



      [1] A. Nesselrath, 'The Acts of the Apostles: Raphael's Design Process for Tapestries in the Sistine Chapel', in Studia Bruxellae, no.11 (2019, no.1), pp.311-323

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