Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Polish horse - engraving by Antonio Tempesta, circa 1590

I am glad to share with you this image, as pictures of Polish horses (and ideas of what Polish horses were thought to have looked like) from early modern Europe are not very plentiful.

The following text comes from a British publication titled: The Penny cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge: v. 1-27, Volume 24, page 178

ANTONIO TEMPESTA was a celebrated Italian battle and animal painter and engraver, was born at Florence in 1555. He became the scholar of John Strada or Stradanus, a Fleming, who was settled at Florence in the employ of the grand-duke, and who assisted him in the battles which he painted in the old ducal palace. Tempesta, after painting some years with Strada, whom he surpassed in many respects, visited Rome, and was employed by Gregory XIII., in the Vatican, where he painted, in small figures in fresco, the Translation of the Body of St. Gregory'of Nazianzus, and some other subjects, which acquired him a great reputation among the artists and virtuosi of Rome, and procured him constant occupation from the Roman nobility. He executed several good works for the Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, at his villa at Caprarola, and some at Bassano for the Marquess Giustiniani. Tempesta resided chiefly at Rome, and died there in 1630, aged seventy five.
His reputation rests now almost entirely upon his etchings, although in his time he had a great name also as a painter. Lanzi terms him the first Italian who ever attained distinction in landscape and animal painting, and considers him at this period to have been unrivalled in his own style in Italy ; he was however surpassed afterwards by Cerquozzi and Borgognone. Horses were his favourite subjects, and he excelled in battles, processions, cavalcades, hunts, and various field-sports. His designs, particularly his etchings, are remarkable for their spirit and boldness of conception, but they are at the same time coarse and heavy, and careless in their execution. He painted generally small figures ; in large ones he was not successful, and he seldom attempted them; he however occasionally prepared large cartoons for tapestries, in the style of his master Strada.
From "History of Painting in Italy." by Il Abbate Luigi Lanzi. Roscoe's translation :
"… in battles and hunting-pieces none in these times equalled Antonio Tempesta. He was followed, though at a considerable interval, by Francesco Allegrini."
"Antonio Tempesta was among the first to acquire a celebrated name in Italy for landscapes and for battles. He practised engraving, prepared cartoons for tapestry, and gave scope to his genius in the most fanciful inventions in grotesque and ornamental work. He surpassed his master in spirit, and was inferior to none, not even to the Venetians. In a letter on painting by the Marquis Giustiniani he is adduced as an example of great spirit in design, a gift conferred by nature, and not to be acquired by art. He attempted few things on a large scale, and was not so successful as in small pictures. The Marquis Niccolini, the Order of the Nunziata, and several Florentine families, possess some of his battles painted on alabaster, in which he appears the precursor of Borgognone (Cortese), who studied him attentively. He most frequently painted in fresco, as at the Villa Caprarola, in the Este villa at Tivoli, and in parts of Rome, from the time of Gregory XIII. Most of the historical pictures in the Vatican Gallery are his work; the figureS, a palm and a half high, display astonishing variety and spirit, accompanied by beautiful architecture and landscapes, with every species of decoration. He is not, however, very correct, and his tints are sometimes inclined too much to a brownish hue; but all such faults are pardonable in him, as being occasioned by that pictoric fury which inspired him, that fancy which hurried him from earth, and conducted him through novel and sublime regions unattempted by the vulgar herd."
"Battles, hunting-pieces, marches, and cavalry-fights are the subjects which he treats by preference. Although his horses are too fleshy, they have the merit of variety in their attitudes and movements. The heads of these animals are treated nobly.
"All the prints of Antonio Tempesta are deeply bitten in with aquafortis: this gives them an appearance of crudeness little likely to please the eye of the amateur; but the knowledge of drawing and the freedom of hand make up for what they want in delicacy.
"Although the general finish of the prints of Tempesta is little remarkable, engravers may obtain useful lessons in laying the first plans of their works when they have horses to introduce.
"There are besides many engravings of Tempesta which, even disregarding their spirited freedom of touch, deserve to be collected by amateurs in their portfolios.
"Tempesta is indebted chiefly for his wide reputation to his engravings. His work of this kind is very extensive.''
Small gallery of Tempesta work's at wikipedia commons.
This image comes from Tempesta's Horses of Different Lands of 1590
*original XIX century grammar preserved


Samuel said...

An interesting excursus into the world of period art indeed. Merry Christmas or Wesołych Świąt btw ;)


Dario T. W. said...

Salve, Samuelu,
I will have a nice package for you - with delil's, 'pod Choinke' -
Wesołych Świąt!