(Design drawings for plasterwork and mural paintings)
(Mid -eighteenth century, including drawings carrying dates between 1746 and 1752).
Oblong folio. (56)ff (of which the last 31 are blank). The first 25ff carry in all 3 mounted pieces of paper with writing on, and 63 mounted pieces of paper with drawings on their recto (of which 4 coloured, 1 folding, 32 pen & ink, 17 pen and ink wash, and 9 crayon) , twelve of which have further drawings on their versos. Several of the drawings also carry ink inscriptions in Italian on their versos, often of a devotional character. One other large crayon drawing loosely inserted. 19th century marbled boards, recently rebacked with imitation calf spine. Pencilled title by later hand on first leaf. EU purchasers should note that this item carries 17.5% VAT.
Mid-eighteenth century sketch designs for plasterwork and mural paintings by one or more itinerant eighteenth-century Italian “stuccatori” (decorative plasterers), mounted in a late nineteenth century album. Although the individual principally responsible for the sketches seemingly specialised in plasterwork, there are also sketches for monuments and altarpieces, as well as cartoons for mural paintings, mainly depicting rural scenes and figure groups. Although the sketches are often crude, a number of quite substantial commissions seem to have been involved, including one for a probably private chapel. Most of the sketches can be attributed by internal evidence either to Antonio Zano or perhaps to a Giovanni Zano. Of two pieces of paper affixed to the first leaf of the album, one carries the inscription ‘Zani stuccatore’, while the other mentions ‘Gio(vanni) Zano & Antonio di Rossa’, while more significantly one of the later sketches, in a handwriting which occurs frequently in the album, has the inscription on its verso “1746… ali 3 aprile Antonio Zano”. A later hand has written on the first leaf, “contiene disegni dello Stuccatore Zani (Valle Vigesso)”, “Valle Vigesso” presumably being the present-day Valle Vigezzo, on the Italian/Swiss frontier. One of the sketches for a mural painting has a caption in its artist’s hand that the painting was executed in the town of Beltrano, but we have not been able to locate this town in Italy and we think it more likely that it is the Italian name of a town somewhere in the Balkan territories of the Holy Roman Empire ; another unidentiable place name, “Chlervo”, certainly sounds Balkan. The Zanos may well have travelled quite extensively in this region, for another drawing of two figures, one leading a donkey, the other riding it, is mounted on an eighteenth-century printed map of the area where the river Danube meets the river Morava, just south of Belgrade (that area was at the time still under Turkish rule, but the Ottoman government was crumbling, and travel within what is now Serbia seems to have been possible). Our provisional view is these “stuccatori”, although Italian, are likely to have been working primarily in the swathe of territory in the northern Balkans which had been progressively reconquered by the Austrians from the Turks during the first half of the eighteenth century. This would account both for the frequent crudity of the sketches (the area was one where great artistic skill was not required) and for the surprisingly ambitious range of subject matter (in an area where there were few other artists, a “stuccatore” might be asked to turn his hand to practically any type of decoration). The album is in any event an interesting record of the design ambitions of a category of itinerant artist-craftsmen who have left little trace in conventional art history.