Oblong 8vo, 15 x 20 cm, ff. 71. Ink drawings on 7 ll. (the rest blank), depicting countryside landscapes, buildings, trees and studies of cavalry with horses and soldiers. Slight age yellowing, very minor and occasional marginal soiling. A very attractive album in contemporary vellum, covers single gilt ruled, fleurons at corners and baroque oval centrepiece, small hole to lower cover, missing ties, a.e.g. and gauffered with charming star-shaped tools. Spine single gilt ruled in compartments with gilt ornaments at centres, a bit darkened and creased. Cancelled later pencil inscription to verso of last, only the first word (“Madame”) is legible.
A lovely anonymous sketchbook, in a contemporary probably Lyonnaise binding, containing a small collection of pen and ink drawings. In the Renaissance, drawing was a fundamental part of artists’ training and work: albums like this one were commonly used by painters and engravers for practicing, realising preparatory sketches, formulating new ideas and copying the drawings of others. Interestingly, artists would lend their personal sketchbooks to their friends or students: in this way, many of these portable volumes travelled all around Europe and contributed to spreading styles and inspiring other artists.
The rural subjects appearing in this album, as well as their distinctive style – clear and precise strokes, cross-hatching lines to render shadow effects – are typically found in the works of the artists who belonged to the Florentine school of Remigio Cantagallina (1582-1656). Four charming drawings depict scenes of everyday life in the countryside, populated by human figures and animals, detailed architectural representations of small houses, churches, and evocative castles surrounded by nature and water with boats. One, in the foreground, shows a man on one knee proposing to a woman; another portrays two men resting and smoking at the side of a road. Two leaves contain studies of cavalry, showing soldiers and horses in movement from different angles and in different complex positions. An unfinished landscape with three trees is a fascinating example of how certain parts of a sketch were completed at different stages.
The combination of themes appearing in this small volume, their aesthetics and execution techniques are characteristic of the Italian painter and engraver Ercole Bazzicaluva. Active in Florence at the half of the 17th century, Bazzicaluva was a student of Cantagallina and Giulio Parigi. He realised numerous thematic collections of ink drawings, and he is most famous for his landscapes depicting imaginary rural villages with bridges and shepherds (‘Pochi e finti paesi’, 1638), scenes of cavalry charges, naval battles and hunt (‘Episodi militari’, 1641; ‘Caccia al cinghiale). The particular way in which trees are here sketched – with sinuous trunks and branches that continue beyond the margins of the picture – is a characteristic of this artist’s style.On Bazzicaluva’s printed works, see Bartsch, Le peintre-graveur, vol. XX pp. 69-73.