An Italian Mannerist painter from the Emilian School, Niccolò dell’Abbate was associated to the School of Fontainebleau artists in France. He was part of the First School of Fontainebleau, a group of Italian artists working in the royal Château of Fontainebleau, whose style was influential to France and northern Europe.
Niccolò dell'Abbate was born in Modena, to the son of a sculptor and trained in the studio of a local Modenese sculptor, his early influence including Ferrarese painters such as Il Garofalo (1481 – 1559) and Dosso Dossi (1490 – 1542). He specialized in long friezes with secular and mythological subjects, including for the Palazzo dei Beccherie (1537); in various rooms of the Rocca at Scandiano, owned by the counts Boiardo, notably a courtly ceiling Concert composed of a ring of young musicians seen in perspective, sotto in su (early 1540s), and the Hercules Room in the Rocca dei Meli Lupi at Soragna (c. 1540–43), and possibly the loggia frescoes removed from Palazzo Casotti at Reggio Emilia.
His style was modified by exposure to Correggio (1489 – 1534) and Parmigianino (1503 – 1540), when he moved to Bologna in 1547. In Bologna, most of his painting depicted elaborate landscapes and aristocratic genre scenes of hunting and courtly love, often paralleled in mythological narratives. It was during this time that he decorated the Palazzo Poggi, and executed a cycle of frescoes illustrating Orlando Furioso, an Epic Poem by Ludovico Ariosto (1474 – 1533) in the ducal palace at Sassuolo, near Modena.
In 1552, Niccolò moved to France, where he worked at the Château de Fontainebleau as a member of the decorating team under Francesco Primaticcio (1504 – 1570), another School of Fontainebleau painter along with Il Rosso (1494 – 1540). Within two years of his arrival he was drawing a project for a decor commemorating Anne de Montmorency, a French diplomat. In Paris, he frescoed the chapel ceiling in the Hôtel de Guise (now destroyed), following Primaticcio's designs. He also executed private commissions on portable canvases of mythological subjects in landscapes. Much of his output reflected an often overlooked function of artists of the time: the ephemeral festive decorations erected to celebrate special occasions in the court circle, for example, the decorations for the triumphal entry into Paris staged for Charles IX and his bride Elisabeth of Austria in 1571, the year Niccolò died in France.
Niccolò is best known for his landscapes enshrouding a mythological narrative, a thematic which would inspire French artists such as Claude Lorrain (1600 – 1682) and Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665), and for his profuse and elegant drawings.
(This text is adapted from the www.wikipedia.org entry on Niccolò dell’Abbate, available under GNU Free Documentation License).
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