SCHOOL OF FONTAINEBLEAU (c.1550)
TWO DANCING FEMALE FIGURES WITH A
HALF-TURNED MALE FIGURE BEHIND
Pen & ink, heightened with white lead on brown paper
25 x 20.1 cm
Sir Jack & Lady Baer, Kensington;
By whose estate sold in 2022
The present work is by an as-yet-unidentified artist working within the so-called 'School of Fontainebleau' (a nomenclature coined by Adam Bartsch), the group of artists associated with decoration of the the Kings of France's lavish countryside retreat to the southeast of Paris, the Palace of Fontainebleau. The chief proponents of the School were the artists Francesco Primaticcio, Rosso Fiorentino and Niccolo dell'Abate, with a number of other prominent artists recorded as working alongside these enormously influential figures. With the three aforementioned artists came the first examples of Mannerist art in France, which were to have an immense impact on the development of Northern Mannerism. These artist's reach was furthered by a prolific output of etchings (numbering well over a thousand) associated with the School and its artists, which entered collections throughout Europe, providing radical inspiration to subsequent generations of artists.
Our sheet shows the clear influence of both Primaticcio and Fiorentino, with the composition, positioning of the figures and line of the pen-work absolutely typical of both their works and the etchings which resulted from their designs. It has been suggested that the present work may relate to one such print; however, there are no examples in the exhaustive three-volume Prints at the Court of Fontainebleau (edited by Catherine Jenkins) which correspond exactly to our drawing. Several passages of the drawing show the artist grasping the difficulties of realistic modelling within the space of the picture plane, though the confident handling of the drapery and the elegant facial types suggest more than a mere journeyman hand.
Formerly in the collection of Jack & Diana Baer, this work hung as a centrepiece of one of the sitting room walls in their Kensington home of many years. It was never exhibited by Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, and so appears instead to have been something that Jack purchased for himself.