Designs for architectural ornament
- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case 95, shelf C, box 9
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Height: 24.4 cm Plate mark, Width: 16.7 cm Cut to approx.
Object history note
Agostino Mitelli (1609 - 1660) was a master in seventeenth-century quadratura, the particular Bolognese form of decorative surround used to enframe ceiling and wall frescoes, in which he achieved extraordinary illusion through the use of tromp l’oeil.
He was born in Battidizzo, near Bologna. After moving to Bologna he became the pupil of the painter Girolamo Curti (1570-1631), regarded as the first quadraturista. It was in Curti’s workshop that Mitelli met the painter Angelo Michele Colonna, who became his friend and collaborator. They worked together from 1632 until Mitelli’s death in 1660. Colonna worked as a figurista, painting figures, while Mitelli, using his architectural knowledge, provided designs for the ceiling surrounds to these works. His skills in perspective resulted from his studies with Giovanni Battista Falcetta, a leading Bolognese architect.
In 1635 Mitelli and Colonna made their only trip in Rome where they saw the Galleria Farnese, recently completed by Pietro da Cortona. This time in Rome marked a turning point in their style, which can be seen in their decoration of the Sala of the Palazzo Spada.
They moved from Rome to Florence to paint three rooms for the Summer Apartments in the Palazzo Pitti (1637-41), now Museo degli Argenti. In Sassuolo, the two painters decorated the great Salone of the Palazzo d’Este in 1646. After working on commissions in many other cities including Genoa and Parma, they were summoned to the Spanish court of Philip IV. There they worked on the ceiling frescoes in the Alcazar and in the royal retreat of the Buen Retiro (no longer in existence). Following the death of Mitelli in August 1660 Colonna completed their projects in Madrid, working from the quadraturista’s designs.
The life of Agostino Mitelli was written by some of the most famous art biographers of the time, including Malvasia in Felsina Pittrice (1678), and Baldinucci in Notizie de’ professori del disegno...(1681). His sonPadre Giovanni Mitelli, also wrote a biography of his father, which remained unpublished
As the contemporary sources stated Mitelli was also acclaimed for his scenic design for the court feasts in Ferrara and Parma, as well as the spectacles for the marriage of Margherita de’ Medici with the duke Ottavio Farnese. He is also known to have written poetry and performed on the stage.
According to biographers, Mitelli’s engravings were soon highly regarded, their great fortune partially due to the set printed by his son Giovanni Maria after Mitelli’s drawings. The most famous series is “Freggi d’Architettura”, printed in Bologna in 1645, is dedicated to count Ettore Ghisilieri.
Agostino Mitelli, plate from a suite of 8 designs for cartouches and architectural ornament printed by Giovanni Giacomo Rossi and dedicated to Conte Francesco Caprara. Italian, c.1640-60.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Guilmard, D., Les Maîtres Ornemanistes, Paris, 1880-1881, p.314, 26 (5).
(Berlin II) Berlin Staatlich Museen., Katalog der Ornamentstich-Sammlung der Staatlichen Kunstbibliothek Berlin, Berlin and Leipzig, 1936-39, 572.
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection