The shrinkage of accumulated treasures through the return of looted art or through the correction of inaccurate attributes usually proceeds shyly to museums. It is even more extraordinary what the Louvre is currently celebrating. For nearly three centuries, Paris has been believed to have owned the most important ensemble of drawings belonging to Giorgio Vasari, namely the personal collection of masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, mentioned by Vasari in the “Artist’s Manuscript” and later included. in all the winds were scattered. An exhibit now makes it clear that the Vasari treasury of the Louvre has not been reduced to just a few sheets.
The “Libro de ‘disegni” of this forerunner of art history, who was one of the first to compile a collection of drawings based on historical aspects, has been lost since his death in 1574. The sheets were sold or donated. However, the book continues to flourish as a myth and is considered an archetype of modern art collections. Apart from mentioning the individual drawings in “Viten”, very little is known about him. Was it five hundred sheets? Half? More? Less? Some collectors of the 18th century imagined that they owned considerable parts of it. One of them, the Frenchman Pierre-Jean Mariette, also believed he had found a reliable criterion for the sheets belonging to the collection. Vasari himself or his students, wrote in 1730, framed the drawings with hand ornaments and below “in beautiful letters” wrote the name of the respective artist.
master or not? You should have known a long time ago
Such drawings decorated with allegorical or architectural elements, the so-called “Vazari montage”, circulated in large numbers. Their widest ensemble came to the Louvre via Mariette, another package went to Sweden. Even in his early years as curator of the Louvre, says the curator of the current Paris exhibition, he heard murmurs about the “Vazari montage” package with fear and pride. You should have known him better long ago.
In a 1950s inventory of Renaissance prints at the British Museum, two art historians made an important discovery. On a sheet of ostensibly “Vazari montage” they found an emblem referring to a contemporary of Vasari, the then famous collector Niccolò Gaddi, who, like Vasari, had motifs on drawing sheets framed with pen and ink. Apparently this was a popular technique at the time. Most of the supposed leaves from Vasar’s drawing book lost their clear classification as a result of this discovery. However, word of this has hardly spread in the history of art to this day. The joint exhibition of the Louvre and the National Museum in Stockholm, where it will be displayed in the autumn, is an official departure from the claim of these museums for the treasure of Vasar’s drawing. Hardly more than 30 sheets can be seen worldwide as revenue from the Vasar collection. The burden of proof has shifted. “Assembly masonry” is no longer a reliable criterion. From now on, proof of authenticity in relation to “Libro de ‘disegni” must be provided individually for each sheet.
Art history is certainly not reversed by this and the drawings are no less beautiful for this reason. However, the situation has changed. And new knowledge emerges. A closer look reveals different trends in the shape of the frame. Vasari and his collaborators liked to add allegorical motifs to their frames, such as Domenico Ghirlandaio’s “The Head of an Old Man with Closed Eyes” leaflet, in which four female figures at the edges of the medallion vaguely turn to the old man or towards him. walking distance The frames commissioned by Gaddy, on the other hand, are dominated by architectural elements such as window frames, wall panels or harnesses. The collector position is also interesting in comparison. Vasari was a collector artist, Gaddi a connoisseur and lover. Moreover, the “Libro” of the ancients was apparently a book bound by fixed arrangement. Gaddi’s was in the form of a loose sheet album that had to be pulled out and hung alternately on the walls of Casa dell’OrtoGad’s palace in Florence.
The Louvre can now only show a few drawings
Due to the revised attribute and fragile nature of the leaves, the Louvre exhibition can boast only a few authentic drawings from the Vasar collection. However, based on the sheets selected in their context, it can be clearly seen how simple artistic sketches and graphic preliminary studies, equipped with lush border flourishing, were turned into independent works of art. Many of these later decorative additions were cut back later. The last exhibition hall in Paris shows a series of such amputated drawing sheets, which, if at all, contain only traces of their frame. They look orphaned, but at the same time they have something very modern for us today art viewers, that we no longer need visual aids with pen and ink.
Giorgio Vasari – Drawing Book. The fates of a mythical collection. Louvre, Paris. Until July 18. Catalog 29 euros