Domenico Maria Fratta

(Bologna, 1696 - Bologna, 1763)

Venus and Amorino

pen and brown in on white paper

248 x 216 mm (9.76 x 8.50 inches)

  • Reference Number: 0220
  • Provenance: Private collection
  • Price: € 2.400,00 - circa US $ 2.592,00

Lying on a bed of clouds in the sky, Venus is fixing her hair while Amor is gently holding her arm. There is the mood of a minuet, and it seems that nature comes alive from the encounter between the two deities – as we can see in the two loving doves above.

The drawing can certainly be ascribed to the graphic corpus of the workshop of the painter Donato Creti (1671 – 1749), Cremonese-born but active mainly in Bologna. Marco Riccomini’s last studies on this environment enabled the identification of the various personalities and the recognition of very pertinent stylist groups. One of these, for instance, is the anonymous drawer known as “Amico di Donato”: an artist who was certainly active in Creti’s workshop; nonetheless, he distinguishes himself in the less severe profiles of his figures, which disregard the classicism in favour of the forms of the late barique.

Our drawing could be ascribed to the rich production of “Amico di Donato”: in particular, the figures find precise comparisons in the beautiful sheet with the Olympus of the Kupferstichkabinett of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin (inv. KdZ 16660) or with the Diana and Endymion today part of the Metropolitan Museum’s collections in New York (inv. n. 80.3.198). Nonetheless, we can suggest a new hypothesis: since almost all the studies belonging to the corpus of the “Amico” are – just as our drawing – made in pen with few traces of black pencil, it is crucial to notice a mitigated baroque mood throughout this series, the same mood that defines the profiles of the figures in the graphic works, undoubtedly closer to Creti’s style, of Domenico Maria Fratta (whose catalogue of known works mainly consists of drawings made in pen and paintbrush). We know from the sources that Fratta and Ercole Graziani were among the most enduring collaborators of Creti’s workshop. Nonetheless, Graziani is a retrospective author, closer to Pasinelli and more in general to the 15th century tradition; on the contrary, Fratta gleans from the themes and models of his time and as Creti manages to visually represent the just as important poetical phenomena of the Bolognese Arcadia. In the affected pose of Venus we easily recognize the same pretentious nature conveyed in the allegorical female figures of the studies for two tombs in the group commissioned by the Irish theatre impresario Owen McSwiny (these studies are today part of the collections of the National Gallery of Art in Washington). Just as Marcantonio Francescini and the younger Giuseppe Marchesi, Fratta represents the mythological tales alluding to love and sexual pleasure: and the smooth modulated lines become an agreeable voice, representative of its time and still pleasant today for our sight.


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