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Copy after Raphael’s ceiling fresco representing ‘Poetry’ in the Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican Palace, Rome,1509-11), 1864

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    1864 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mariannecci, Cesare (maker)
    Arundel Society (Commissioner)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on paperboard.

  • Credit Line:

    National Gallery, 1993

  • Museum number:

    E.255-1995

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This watercolour is a copy after the medallion representing the Allegory of ‘Poetry’ on the ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican Palace, which was executed by Raphael in 1509-11.

In 1864, Cesare Mariannecci (c.1819-c.1894) was commissioned by the Arundel Society to copy it. From 1864 to 1868, the artist copied eight scenes from both the Stanza della Segnatura and the Stanza di Eliodoro for the Arundel Society. This watercolour was later transposed as a chromolithograph which was published in 1867 by Storch and Kramer. When the Arundel Society was dissolved in 1897, the watercolour was given to the National Gallery, who eventually transferred it to the V&A in 1993, where it has remained since.

The decoration of the Vatican Stanze was first commissioned by Pope Julius II (1443-1513) and continued by his successors Pope Leo X (1475-1521) and Clement VII (1478-1534). The first Stanza to be frescoed was the Stanza della Segnatura (1508-1511), and was mostly decorated by Raphael (1483-1520).

Physical description

Watercolour on paperboard. Copy after the ceiling fresco medallion of the allegory of ‘Poetry’, a feminine figure in a blue and white dress turning her bust slightly towards her right, with a laurel crown, holding a red book in her right hand and a lyre in her left. She is sitting on a throne with two old bearded men’s heads as armrests posed on white clouds and is flanked by two putti each holding one plaque with the inscriptions ‘Numine’ and ‘Afflatur’ against a painted-mosaic background. The scene is inscribed into a painted-marble circle adorned by colourful grotesque designs with dragons and by medallions with golden acorns, which were the patron’s symbol, Julius II Della Rovere.

Place of Origin

Rome (made)

Date

1864 (made)

Artist/maker

Mariannecci, Cesare (maker)
Arundel Society (Commissioner)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on paperboard.

Dimensions

Height: 35.5 cm, Width: 35.5 cm

Object history note

Watercolour made for the Arundel Society in 1864; given in 1897 to the National Gallery, London; transferred to the V&A in 1993.

Historical context note

This watercolour is a copy made by Cesare Mariannecci for the Arundel Society after the medallion on the ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican, representing the Allegory of ‘Poetry’ which was executed by Raphael in 1509-11. The identification of the main figure with ‘Poetry’ is tied to the laurel crown and the lyre that she is holding in her left hand.

Original work

The decoration of the Vatican Stanze was first commissioned by Pope Julius II (1443-1513) and continued by his successors Pope Leo X (1475-1521) and Clement VII (1478-1534). The first Stanza to be frescoed was the Stanza della Segnatura (1508-1511), and was mostly decorated by Raphael (1483-1520). The walls of the room, probably that of Pope's library, are painted with scenes representing the four areas of knowledge (theology, poetry, philosophy and jurisprudence). The ceiling recalls the themes frescoed on the walls, allegorising the same concepts in four medallions.

By the nineteenth century, Raphael's Roman style was mostly associated with the wall frescoes of the Stanze Vaticane, while his painting on the ceilings of the same rooms were almost entirely forgotten.

Arundel Society
The Arundel Society was founded in 1848 to promote knowledge of the art through the publication of reproductions of works of art. The Society was named after Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585-1646), important aristocratic patron and collector of the early Stuart period. The Society was intended to reach the largest possible audience through these reproductions. Subjects were chosen because of their instructive meaning rather than their popularity. In addition to copies of famous paintings, the Society published an English translation of Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the most excellent painters, made in 1850 by Giovanni Aubrey Bezzi (1785-1789), one of the founding members of the Society.

The Arundel Society popularised Renaissance art, particularly that of the Italian Old Masters, echoing a growing interest for ‘primitives’ in the second half of the nineteenth century. The founding members of the Arundel Society were all acknowledge experts on Italian art. For instance, Sir Charles Eastlake (1793–1865; painter and art administrator), whose house was the meeting point of the Society, was Director of the National Gallery in London from 1855 until 1865 and during his tenure, he began one of the finest collections of Italian art in Britain.
Other preeminent members were John Ruskin (1819-1900, English writer, painter and collector), who supervised projects including the watercolours series of the Upper and Lower Church in Assisi, and Sir Austen H. Layard (1817-1894; English archaeologist, politician, diplomat, collector and writer). Layard lived and travelled in Italy for many years and his knowledge of the country’s art was extensive. It was thanks to Layard’s funding that the Society were able to publish copies of the watercolours made at their direction using chromolithography. Although photography was increasingly popular, as photographs could only be made in black and white, chromolithography was chosen as it was felt to be closer to the principals of the Arundel Society: they were coloured and had the aura of traditional prints. In this way, copies were more like the originals.

The Society reached the height of its popularity in the 1860s. However, by the end of the century, it faced mounting criticism with regards to the accuracy of its watercolour copies. The Society ceased its activities in 1897. At this time the availability of second-hand prints had increased and the Society found it difficult to find market for its chromolithographs. Moreover, photographic reproductions were becoming increasingly popular thanks to technical advances. The last display of the Arundel Society’s watercolours took place at the National Gallery and when the Society was dissolved, some watercolours were given to that Institution, while others were acquired by the then South Kensington Museum (now V&A). The outstanding watercolours were transferred from the National Gallery to the V&A in the 1990s.

In 1864, Cesare Mariannecci, was commissioned by the Arundel Society to copy the ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura in watercolour so as to convey the effect of the fresco technique. The artist gave a polished version of the subject and did not show any sign of deterioration in his copy.

The watercolour was later transposed as a chromolithograph which was published in 1867 by Storch and Kramer in the Arundel Society’s issue dedicated to the Roman school. The issues were available to the public by subscription. When the Arundel Society was dissolved in 1897, the original watercolours were given to the National Gallery, which eventually transferred them to the V&A in 1993 where they have remained since.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, Cesare Mariannecci Copy after Raphael’s ceiling fresco medallion representing ‘Poetry’ in the Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican Palace, Rome,1509-11), 1864

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Tanya Ledger, A Study of the Arundel Society 1848-1897, Unpublished thesis submitted for degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Oxford,1978, pp. 98-107, 196-197.

Robyn Cooper, ‘The popularisation of Renaissance in Victorian England: the Arundel Society’ in Art History, vol. 1, issue 3, 1978, pp. 269.

Production Note

Commissioned by the Arundel Society

Materials

Paperboard

Techniques

Watercolour

Subjects depicted

Subject; Putti; Poetry; Allegory

Categories

Allegory; Watercolours

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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