Index of Selected Artists in the Collection

Gregorio de Ferrari (Italian, Porto Maurizio 1647 - 1726 Genoa)
Love Conquers All
Verso: Study for Pyramus
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, black chalk, white heightening, on grey (formerly blue) paper
14 15/16 x 60 3/4 in. (38 x 154.2 cm)
General Acquisitions Fund and Friends of Art Endowment Fund, 1973
AMAM 1973.78

This large sheet is a preparatory study for part of the ceiling decoration in a gallery in the Palazzo Balbi-Senarega, Genoa. Representing episodes from famous classical love myths, perhaps to celebrate the marriage of a Balbi heir, Ferrari's decorative work embodies an important phase in the development of ceiling painting in palaces of the Genoese nobility.

Construction of the Palazzo Balbi-Senarega was begun in 1618 for Giacomo Balbi (d. 1630), a prominent citizen of Genoa. His son, Francesco Maria Balbi (b. ca. 1619), inherited the palazzo around 1644, and subsequently commissioned many vault paintings there beginning in the 1650s. 1 The Oberlin drawing documents a portion of Ferrari's decorative scheme for the long gallery, one of the palazzo's major interior spaces. The theme of the gallery is the triumph of love over mortals and gods alike. The central, oval portion of the vault is illusionistically open to the heavens to reveal Cupid's triumphal procession in a chariot. In the lower zone of the vault, tumbling cherubs surround reclining mythological pairs grappling with the consequences of love. The scheme is completed by additional lovers represented in the lunettes on the end walls of the gallery. 2

The Oberlin drawing presents a nearly completed design for a portion of the upper wall and vault. The focus of the drawing is not on the illusionistic vault, which is only partially rendered at the top of the sheet, but on the narrow space between the upper wall and the lower zone of the vault. Depicted in the drawing are, from left to right, Pyramus and Thisbe; a satyr, Bacchus and Ariadne; Mercury, Pan, and Syrinx; Neptune; and Nessus and Deianeira. 3

The drawing is a generally accurate model for the figures and their precarious positioning atop the jutting architecture. 4 The squaring of the right half of the drawing suggests that this was the final state of the design before it was transposed to the upper wall and vault. Yet the drawing also reveals that Ferrari was still considering alternate decorative systems for the architecture: on the right-hand side of the drawing, dentils are featured in the cornice above the pilasters, while on the left-hand side, palmettes are used. For the final articulation of the continuous band, Ferrari chose the more festive palmettes.

The drawing also reveals Ferrari's concern with merging an actual space--the gallery where the spectator stands--with an imaginary, narrative realm: the site of love's passions in the heavenly domain of the upper vault. As was generally favored in Genoese architectural decoration, Ferrari extended the room's walls upward with fictive painted architecture, to give the impression of an actual view of the heavens rather than, for example, a framed picture of a heavenly scene. 5 As in the earlier decoration of another room in the Balbi palace, 6 Ferrari articulated the rectangular form of the room below with one cornice, and framed the mythological apotheosis with another, curved cornice located immediately above the first. 7

To improve upon the illusionistic means of his predecessors, however, Ferrari opened up the entire vault to the heavens, and gave the vault a greater sense of spaciousness by clustering the figures around the edges. 8 He also extended the fictitious space more directly into the beholder's realm by merging the human activity in the lower vault, which was painted in two dimensions, with the architectural ornament of the walls, which was represented partly in three dimensions. In the drawing the fictitious and real realms appear inseparable. In the actual gallery, Ferrari achieved a bravura integration of two and three dimensions by a sophisticated technique that overlaid painting on stucco, so that two-dimensional figures appeared to rest naturally upon, or even overlap, the projecting stucco capitals and cornice.

This technique of merging painting, sculpture, and architecture for an illusionistic purpose had been developed mostly by artists outside Genoa. 9 Ferrari studied such works by Parmigianino (1503-1540) and Correggio (ca. 1489-1534) in Parma, 10 where he also encountered Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Baciccio), a Genoese artist who worked with Giànlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) in Rome. 11 He may have also encountered Baciccio in 1693 in Genoa, after the latter had executed the vault in the church of the Gésu, Rome (1672-85, after Bernini's designs). 12

No documents have come to light fixing the exact date of the execution of the gallery's decoration and thereby suggesting a time frame for the drawing. Stylistic features are consonant with a date in the 1690s, which fits well with Ferrari's return from Marseilles in 1693 and the marriage of the Balbi heir in November of that year. 13 In contrast to Ferrari's earlier works, both the drawing and finished fresco give the impression of lightness to the figures, both through the figures' diminished size in relation to the vast space rendered in the illusionistic vault, and, in the fresco, through a more pastel palette. Gavazza has detected the presence of a less able hand in the center of the completed fresco, and has therefore proposed a date as late as the second half of the 1690s, in order to accommodate the hypothetical participation of Gregorio's young son Lorenzo (1680-1744). 14 Given the echoes of Baciccio's work in the Gésu in Ferrari's ambitious integration of two and three-dimensional media, it is tempting to fix the terminus post quem to 1693, when Baciccio returned to Genoa.

Although guadratura painters often collaborated with figural specialists in creating elaborate frescoes for palaces and churches during this period in Italy, the Oberlin drawing indicates that Ferrari alone was responsible for both the architectural and figural composition of the executed work. 15

The subject of love's triumph has a long history in Italian palace decoration, notably in the loggia Raphael painted for Agostino Chigi (ca. 1518) in the Villa Farnesina, Rome, and in Annibale Carracci's gallery in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome (ca. 1600). Ferrari's repetition of many scenes from the Farnese gallery suggests this famous monument as an iconographic model for the celebration of an important dynastic union. 16 Whereas Carracci gently mocks the love-induced weakness of the great, Ferrari, however, implies the eventualheavenly apotheosis of those who love. This interpretation corresponds with the general inclination, in Genoese palace decoration of the later seventeenth century, to aggrandize noble owners through allegorical linkage with classical gods. 17

N. Courtright

After the death of Domenico Fiasella (1589-1669), a Genoese fresco painter with whom Ferrari studied from about 1664 to 1668, Ferrari went to Parma for approximately four years, where he copied works by Correggio and probably also encountered Giovanni Battista (Baciccio). On his return to Genoa, he began working with Domenico Piola (1627-1703), an important Genoese palace decorator of the period, and influenced Piola's subsequent painting style. Ferrari married Piola's daughter in 1674. In addition to numerous ecclesiastical commissions, Ferrari painted works in Genoese palaces and villas, including the Palazzo Balbi-Senarega, Palazzo Brignole-Sale (now Palazzo Rosso), Palazzo Centurione, and Palazzo Saluzzo, as well as the Villa Balbi allo Zerbino in Gropallo. Ferrari may have worked on the decorations for the Real Palazzo in Turin (now destroyed) about 1690. Ferrari is not known to have traveled to many other artistic centers in Italy, but nevertheless learned of major trends in illusionistic painting elsewhere on the peninsula from fellow artists and from drawings and prints. In 1692, he was invited to work in Marseilles, and returned to Genoa in 1693.

After the turn of the century, Ferrari was occupied mainly with painting ecclesiastical commissions; his last were frescoes in the church of Santa Croce and San Camillo, Genoa (1715-26).

General References
Soprani, Raffaello, and Carlo Giuseppe Ratti. Delle vite de'pittori, scultori, ed architetti Genovesi.... Genoa, 1797. Reprint, Bologna, 1969, vol. 2, pp. 109-18.

Griseri, Andreina. "Per un profilo di Gregorio de Ferrari." Paragone 6, no. 67 (1955), pp. 22-46.

Gavazza, Ezia. "Contributo a Gregorio de Ferrari." Arte Antica e Moderna 24 (1963), pp. 326-36.

Newcome, Mary. "‘Et nos cedamus Amori': A Drawing by Gregorio de Ferrari for the Palazzo Balbi-Senarega in Genoa." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 2 (1973-74), pp. 78-91.

Dufour, Colette Bozzo, et al., eds. La Pittura in Genova e in Liguria. Vol. 2. Dal seicento al primo novecento. Genoa, 1987, pp. 266-67.

Newcome, Mary. "Gregorio de Ferrari and the Influence of Domenico Fiasella on his Work." Antichità Viva 33 (1994), pp. 23-31.

Sale Amsterdam (no date) (as "Italian School, 18th century") 18

With Ferdinando Peretti, London, from whom purchased in 1973

Binghamton, N.Y., University Art Gallery, State University of New York, 1972. Genoese Baroque Drawings. 1 October - 10 December. Cat. no. 74.

Beam, Jacob. "Review of exhibition, Genoese Baroque Drawings." Master Drawings 11 (1973), p. 294.

Newcome, Mary. "‘Et nos cedamus Amori': A Drawing by Gregorio de Ferrari for the Palazzo Balbi-Senarega in Genoa." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 2 (1973-74), pp. 78-91.

Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), p. 24, fig. 120.

Newcome, Mary. "Notes on Gregorio de Ferrari and the Genoese Baroque." Pantheon 37 (1979), pp. 142-49, ill. p. 149, fig. 14.

Gavazza, Ezia. Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), pp. 197, 205-6, 258, n. 218, ill. pp. 120-121, fig. 152.

Technical Data
The drawing is made of three overlapping sheets joined together to accommodate the large spatial representation required. The artist laid out an underdrawing in black chalk on the (originally blue) paper, then sketched the main features in brown ink, and finished the drawing with brown wash and white heightening. Some of the architecture was defined with a straightedge.

Prior to acquisition by the museum, the drawing was glued to a mount around its perimeter; the mount was removed in 1973, at which time the study of Pyramus was discovered on the verso. 19

The watermark of an anchor surmounted by the letters "MA" (once "MI"?), in a circle crowned by a six-point star (visible on all three sheets) most closely resembles Briquet 552. 20 It indicates that the paper is probably of North Italian origin.

1. Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), p. 38 n. 2, p. 39 n. 25. Today the palace houses the Istituti e Dipartimenti della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell'Università di Genova. Rooms in the Balbi-Senarega palace decorated in an earlier campaign (1650s-60s) include vaults representing Peace with Happiness and Abundance, by Valerio Castello and Andrea Sighizzi; the Rape of Proserpine, by Castello and school of Sighizzi; a Chariot of Time, by Castello and Sighizzi; Leda, by Castello; Jupiter among Personifications of the Arts, by Domenico Piola; Apollo and the Muses, by Piola and Paolo Brozzi; and Strength Triumphing over Vices, by Piola; op. cit., pp. 9-38, 74-76, 146-47. Other rooms executed beginning in the 1670s by Ferrari under the aegis of his father-in-law Domenico Piola include the rooms of Hercules and of Zephyr and Flora; op. cit., pp. 152-53. The small room in an alcove adjacent to the gallery, related stylistically and iconographically, represents Myths of Love, and was painted by Ferrari, possibly with assistance from his son Lorenzo; idem, p. 206.

2. On the decorative scheme of the gallery, see Mary Newcome, "'Et nos cedamus Amori': A Drawing by Gregorio de Ferrari," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 2 (1973-74), pp. 78-79; and more recently, Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), p. 206. The lunettes may depict Cornelius Gallus and Lycoris, and Helen and Paris. They bear inscriptions, respectively, of "E[t no]s cedam[us] amori" and "Utrinq[ue] triumphus amoris." The first inscription (from Virgil's Eclogues 10, 69) abbreviates the passage, "Love conquers all things, let us too surrender to love." The second refers to the triumph of love over both the seduced and the seducer.

3. Not represented in this drawing are the mythological figures populating the other side of the frescoed vault: Vulcan; Venus and Mars; Hercules and Omphale; and Jupiter, disguised as a satyr, with Antiope.

4. For slight variations from the completed fresco, see Mary Newcome, "Notes on Gregorio de Ferrari and the Genoese Baroque," Pantheon 37 (1979), pp. 79-82.

5. The Genoese tradition that Ferrari responded to was influenced by the Bolognese quadratura painters Colonna and Mitelli, who were active in Genoa in the 1650s; see Ebria Feinblatt, Seventeenth-Century Bolognese Ceiling Decorators (Santa Barbara, Calif., 1992), pp. 89-101. See also Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), passim.

6. Representing Peace with Happiness and Abundance by Valerio Castello and Andrea Seghizzi, this room was completed before Castello's death in 1659; Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), p. 74.

7. This allusion to the older framing system gave a sense of harmonious continuity to the chronologically separated rooms of the palace, and thus lent an appearance of dynastic permanence to the Balbi family seat.

8. Pietro da Cortona had created a similar design in the Room of Mars in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, executed 1644-45/46; Malcolm Campbell, Pietro da Cortona at the Pitti Palace: A Study of the Planetary Rooms and Related Projects (Princeton, 1977), pp. 199-205.

9. Two Genoese rooms reflecting these influences are the room of about 1684 featuring the Triumph of a Warrior in the Palazzo Centurione, and the room of 1687 of Spring in the Palazzo Brignole-Sale (Palazzo Rosso); see Ezia Gavazza, "Problemi relativi alla cultura di 'decorazione' del primo Settecento a Genova," Studi di Storia delle arti 1 (1977), p. 121; Gerhard Gruitrooy, "Three bozzetti by Gregorio de Ferrari and some related documents," The Burlington Magazine 128 (1986), pp. 666-70; and Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), pp. 151, 321. In some other rooms of the Brignole-Sale palace, a stuccoworker was employed; this choice of medium reinforced the traditional tendency to treat stucco as a discreet, enframing medium.

10. For Ferrari in Parma, where he copied Correggio's Assumption of the Virgin in the cupola of the Duomo, see Mary Newcome Schleier, Disegni Genovesi dal XVI al XVIII secolo (exh. cat., Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, 1989), p. 144.

11. For Ferrari and Baciccio, see Ezia Gavazza, "Contributo a Gregorio de Ferrari," Arte Antica e Moderna 24 (1963), pp. 326-36.

12. In 1693 Baciccio returned to Genoa after winning the commission to decorate the vault of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Palazzo Ducale, where Ferrari surely encountered him again. For this unexecuted project, see Mary Newcome Schleier, Genoese Baroque Drawings (exh. cat., University Art Gallery, State University of New York, Binghamton, N.Y., 1972), p. 43, cat. no. 113. For Baciccio's Genoese students in Rome, who also encountered Bernini's techniques, see Mary Newcome Schleier, Disegni Genovesi dal XVI al XVIII secolo (exh. cat., Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, 1989), p. 170. For Bernini's merger of media in the service of an illusionistic "reality," see Irving Lavin, Bernini and the Unity of the Visual Arts (New York and London, 1980), esp. pp. 43-44, 54-57, 127-29. For Bernini's designs for the Gesù, executed by Baciccio, see Steven Ostrow, "Intercession of Christ and the Virgin," in Drawings by Gianlorenzo Bernini, ed. Irving Lavin (exh. cat., The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1981), pp. 310-15.

13. Francesco Maria Balbi II married Clarice Durazzo di Agostino on 16 November 1693; Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), pp. 206 and 262 n. 280.

14. Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), p. 206.

15. For Ferrari's sculptural collaborations, see Fausta Franchini Guelfi, "Appunti su alcuni problemi della cultura figurative a Genova alla fine del Seicento," Pantheon 33 (1975), pp. 318-27; and Mary Newcome Schleier, Disegni Genovesi dal XVI al XVIII secolo (exh. cat., Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi, Florence, 1989), pp. 158-60, cat. no. 80.

16. Mary Newcome, "'Et nos cedamus Amori': A Drawing by Gregorio de Ferrari," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 31, no. 2 (1973-74), p. 86; Ezia Gavazza, Lo Spazio dipinto (Genoa, 1989), p. 206. For the Farnese gallery as depicting a visual epithalamium, or ancient poetic celebration of marriage, see Charles Dempsey, "'Et nos cedamus Amori': Observations on the Farnese Gallery," The Art Bulletin 50 (1968), pp. 363-74.

17. Colette Bozzo Dufour et al., eds., La Pittura a Genova e in Liguria, vol. 2, Dal seicento al primo novecento (Genoa, 1987), p. 197.

18. Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), p. 24.

19. Note by Marjorie Cohn, Associate Conservator, Fogg Art Museum, dated 15 November 1973, in the museum files.

20. Charles Briquet, Les Filigranes: Dictionaire Historique des Marques du Papier, 4 vols. (Leipzig, 1923).