40. Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi, known as Il Bolognese

Bologna 1606 – 1680 Rome

Landscape with a Fisherman

Trained at Bologna, in the circle of the Carracci, Grimaldi arrived in Rome towards 1626. He became a member of the Academy of St Luke and henceforth frequented the entourage of Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669). A painter and architect, Grimaldi was also remarkable for his graphic talent, as shown in his many preserved drawings1 – usually in pen and heightened with brown wash – and his no less abundant etchings, most of which are landscapes. Therein he proves himself an inspired follower of his fellow Bolognese, the Carracci and Domenichino (1581-1641), who set up the classical rules of the genre.

In this extremely linear etching that leaves ample areas of untouched paper, Grimaldi arranged all the characteristic features of his compositions: water – ever-present –, trees, vernacular architectures, an arched bridge, and a few figures. The etcher used curved and parallel hatchings to convey the bulging volumes of the tree trunk on the right, and heightened his blacks, by means of a second biting of the plate, to make the foreground stand out. Much more than a mere repoussoir motif, the tree is the main subject here; its wavy tracing and the almost calligraphic treatment of its branches organising the composition. In the middle ground on the left, on the opposite bank, a second tree seems to be responding to it. The fishermen’s picturesque figures, as well as the constructions, almost appear to be mere anecdotes with respect to the imposing outline of the tree sheltering them. The luminosity and coolness irradiated by this landscape bestow on it a spontaneous charm, which is not always the case with Grimaldi’s more ambitious compositions, which are often frozen in a form of classicism, or simply repeat hackneyed solutions. Compared to the ensemble of the artist’s etched landscapes, with their often denser and more elaborate compositions, the relative simplicity of this subject suggests that it is an early work.2

Already pointed out by Bartsch in 1819, but not located until recently – it did not feature in the monograph by Anna Maria Matteucci and Rossella Ariuli in 2002, who catalogued it without having been able to find it in a public collection – this print, like its counterpart,3 was only published for the first time in 2012 by Paolo Bellini. The copy he described, which belongs to the Albertina collections in Vienna, had until then been attributed to Crescenzio Onofri (1632-1698), which explains its belated rediscovery. Until the eventual localisation of other copies than those cited by Bellini, these two companion-pieces represent an exception in institutional collections.

The Fondation Custodia already held six drawings by Grimaldi, acquired by Frits Lugt, all in brown ink, which reveal a predilection for river landscapes and studies of trees. As such, the two etchings acquired in 2016 perfectly illustrate the artist’s graphic production and the subjects dearest to him. MNG

1In particular, in the collections of the Louvre and the British Museum.

2Paolo Bellini, L’opera incisa di Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi, Bologna 2012, p. 126.

3Paris, Fondation Custodia, inv. no. 2016-P.19 (etching; 205 × 175 mm); see ibid. no. 50, repr.