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  • CHARLES PERCIER (1764-1838)


    Inscribed l.r. Dans une des salles du palais du Te a Mantoue

    Pen & ink with watercolour, gouache and pencil

    25.3 x 33.7 cm



    Private collection, Paris





    '...this concern for telling details was already balanced by an awe for the integration of architecture and decoration achieved by Giulio Romano in the Palazzo del Te.' [1]



    Various studies by Percier of one of Romano's frescos at the famed home of the Gonzaga Dynasty in Mantua can be found in the Bibliothèque of the 'Institut de France, Paris (see image right for a closely comparable example). [2] The present study is after a roundel in the Camera dei Venti (Chamber of the Winds), a cavernous room built in 1527-28 with decorations dedicated to the theme of astrology, which owes its name to the anthropomorphised 'Winds' painted by Giulio Romano in the lower part of the vault. This particular roundel's imagery and symbolism was carefully analysed by E.H. Gombrich, as part of his wider study of the entire decorative scheme of the room [3]. Gombrich connected the roundel with the zodiac sign of Sagittarius (though the roundel is under the depiction of Libra), and the imagery derives from the author Firmicus Maternus' prose handbook of judicial astrology, specifically the following passage:


    'In the eighth degree of Libra rises the Arrow (Sagitta). Whoever is born when this constellation rises will be a hurler of arrows who transfixes the birds in their flight with a specially constructed device, or fearlessly spears the fishes of the deep with the trident or harpoon.' (VIII, 12) [4]



    Percier drew considerable inspiration from the Palazzo as a whole, and this has been discussed in great detail by Amadeo Beluzzi recently. [5]



    • NOTES

      [1] T. Stammers, 'The Man who created Dictator Chic', in Apollo (online), 16.03.2017 - [Last accessed 04.04.2024]

      [2] Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France, Dessins de Charles Percier, Ms 1018

      [3] E.H. Gombrich, 'The Sala dei Venti in the Palazzo del Te', in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 13, no. 3/4 (1950), p.192 (with an illustration on p.50, fig. e)

      [4] Gombrich used the Teubner edition of Maternus: W. Kroll & F Skutsch in association with K. Ziegler, Leipzig (1913)

      [5] A. Belluzi, 'Palazzo Te nei disegni di Charles Percier', in Charles Percier e Pierre Fontaine dal soggiorno romano alla transofmrazione di Parigi (eds. S. Frommel, J.-P. Garric & E. Kieven), Milan (2014), pp.73-87

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