Drawings by the Mantuanus A in the Architectural and Antiquarian Culture of Renaissance Europe
Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (April 2017 to March 2018), Dr. Francesca Mattei (Politecnico di Milano)
The dissemination of Italian art throughout all of Europe during the Renaissance period is a complex and problematic phenomenon. The many ways in which the Italian culture was diffused are to be studied in depth. The drawings by Anonymous Mantuanus A constitute a significant case study for these issues. Among the drawings attributed to him, it is possible to identify two significant groups: the Codex Fol. A 45 (Graphische Sammlung Schloss Wilhelmsöhe, Museumslandschaft Hessen-Kassel) and the Marten van Heemskerck Album II (Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. 79.D.2a).
This corpus is dedicated to ancient monuments and to Renaissance visual art and architecture. Due to the analysis of the handwriting and the subjects, the drawings are datable to the thirties and the forties of the sixteenth century. The identity and the name – and maybe the provenance – of the Anonymous Mantuanus A remain to be clarified.
Thus far, the drawings in the two groups have primarily been examined with regard to their references to antiquity. The project of Francesca Mattei, funded by a two-year grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, focused on the Renaissance subjects. Her work aimed at analysing the link between these collections of drawings and the architectural culture at the court of Mantua during the era of Giulio Romano – architect of Federico II and Ercole Gonzaga. Several factors suggest a connection with the Duchy of Mantua: on the one hand, the unit of measurement used by the anonymous author was the braccio mantovano. On the other hand, some sheets – especially in the Van Heemskerck Album II – point to a particular connection with Giulio Romano: they include representations of his Palazzo Te and Palazzo Ducale in Mantua; while six sheets are linked to the Codex Chlumczansky (Národní Galerie, Prague), formerly owned by Federico II Gonzaga.
Based on the investigation of the drawings of the Anonymous Mantuanus A, the project aimed to understand the ways in which Giulio Romano’s stylistic language spread in Europe. It involved the analysis of architectural works — such as the palace of Duke Ludwig X of Bavaria in Landshut or the palace of Henry III of Nassau in Breda — as well as the history of collecting drawings north of the Alps.
Anonymus Mantuanus A, Berlin, SMB-PK, Kupferstichkabinett, inv. 79.D.2a, fol 8r
This project was funded through the postdoctoral fellowship program of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.