11. Gherardo Cibo

Rome or Genoa 1512 – 1600 Rocca Contrada

Landscape with a Stag Hunt

Gherardo Cibo is an unusual artist who was able to blend his gifts rather cleverly. An amateur draughtsman and erudite botanist, he did a number of landscapes and botanical drawings, composed herbals, and used his knowledge of plants to produce the colours applied in his paintings or drawings. He was also a theorist who wrote extensively on artistic techniques, the art of composing a landscape,1 and the intrinsically experimental character of his enquiries – the results of which can be seen in our drawing.

The first work in Cibo’s hand to enter the Fondation Custodia collections, this landscape, structured in successive planes according to classical rules, was done as an end in itself. Nonetheless, the almost square format of the sheet, the close framing, and the curved outline of the trees in the foreground give this composition a distinct originality. In its technique, the work somehow recalls drawings by Flemish and Dutch artists, who were a major inspiration for Cibo.2 So much so, in fact, that one of his two drawings held at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge was formerly attributed to Hans Bol (1534-1593).3 For the sake of comparison, a drawing recently added to the corpus of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526/30-1569)4 shows that influences between Northern and Southern artists were reciprocal at the time: Bruegel, who closely studied drawings by Domenico Campagnola (1482/1500-1564) and altered his manner through contact with other Italian examples, applied a graphic technique in this drawing that bears extremely interesting similarities to our sheet.

In our drawing, as well as the Cambridge one, we recognise the same tense graphic style for describing the foliage, and the parasol shape the artist gave the boughs of the trees. The white gouache heightening, almost opaque, is placed on the reliefs most susceptible to catching the light. It models the textures of the leaves, the ripples on the water, and the mountains in the distance. Cibo also used a highly diluted white gouache to create the transparencies of the clouds. The contrast between the warm tones of the brown ink and the colder ones of the gouache and the blue wash reminds us of the atmosphere of another of the artist’s equally painterly drawings held in Brussels,5 which was done using these same techniques on blue paper.6

While Cibo is known for having largely drawn landscapes from life – in particular in his sketchbooks7 –, there is every reason to assume this was not the case here. Unlike the latter, mainly done in pen and brown ink, on which the artist often put an inscription indicating place and date,8 our sheet resembles an Arcadian vision. The cynegetic theme is merely a pretext to enliven this idealized forest landscape, similar to the shepherds with their herds in the foreground of the Brussels drawing. MNG

1In his manuscript Modo di colorire e far paesi, dated to the second half of the 1580s and preserved in the Library of Cremona, inv. no. MS 156.

2Cibo’s first contact with the art of Northern Europe was during his stay in Flanders in the spring of 1540; see Giorgio Mangani and Lucia Tongiorgi Tomasi, Gherardo Cibo. Dilettante di botanica e pittore di ’paesi’, Ancona 2013, pp. 116-120.

3Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, inv. no. PD.177-1963 (pen and brown ink, with grey and blue wash; 219 × 292 mm); see ibid., no. 46; and http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer.

4Cambridge (Mass.), Fogg Art Museum, The Maida and George Abrams Collection, inv. no. 1999.132 (pen and brown ink, with brown wash and black chalk, heightened with white gouache, on blue paper; 260 × 344 mm); see William W. Robinson, De Bruegel à Rembrandt: dessins hollandais et flamands de la collection Maida et George Abrams, exh. cat., London (British Museum), Paris (Institut Néerlandais) and Cambridge (Fogg Art Museum) 2002, cat. no. 1; and https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/collections.

5Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts, former Jean de Grez collection, inv. no. 4060/1786 (pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white gouache, on blue paper; 212 × 277 mm); see Mangani and Tongiorgi Tomasi 2013, op. cit. (note 2), no. 21; and https://www.fine-arts-museum.be/fr/la-collection.

6Other examples are listed by ibid., nos. 257-258.

7One example of which is held at the town library of Jesi, the so-called Album “A”; see ibid., nos. 119-131.

8Ibid., nos. 132-149.