Italian printmaker, draftman and etcher Stefano della Bella (1610-1664) was a well-traveled chronicler of Florentine pageants, life in Rome and Paris and episodes of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Aside from an apprenticeship in goldsmithing, della Bella was essentially a self-taught artist. The Medici of Florence became his patrons before 1630 and sponsored his six-year stay in Rome (1633-1639). There he developed his abilities as an expert draftsman by studying and recording ancient and contemporary buildings, outdoor events and everyday life in the Eternal City. Having created works on paper for the French nobility in Paris beginning in 1639, he resumed work at the Medici court in 1650.
Early in his career, della Bella drew the Getty Museum's Design for a Ewer with Eagles and Putti (ca. 1629) for one of the Medici. Ewers (vessels with spouts and handles) and other glass table ornaments were popular with della Bella's illustrious Florentine patrons for ceremonial purposes. This fanciful and ingenious design for a glass cup, probably never fabricated, includes an eagle standing on top of a tree while pursuing a coiled serpent with its claws. Two putti grasp the wings of a second bird of prey that bears the vessel's entwined spouts.
"Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts" is on view from February 6 through May 20, 2007 at the J. Paul Getty Museum (Telephone: 310-440-7330; Website). The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Admission is free. Parking costs $8.00.
From your Guide: Stan Parchin, Senior Correspondent for Museums and Special Exhibitions, is a specialist in ancient, late-medieval and Renaissance art and history, and a regular contributor to About Art History. You may read all of his Special Exhibition and Catalogue Reviews here.