Design for an Ewer

Object Details

Title:

Design for an Ewer

Artist/Maker(s):

Stefano della Bella (Italian, 1610 - 1664)

Culture:

Italian

Date:

about 1629

Medium:

Pen and ink and blue wash

Dimensions:

35.9 x 25.7 cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/8 in.)

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On top of a gnarled tree, an eagle stands with outstretched wings. With its claws, the imposing bird attacks a coiled serpent. Two putti pull at the wings of a second eagle that carries a pair of entwined spouts on its back. This fanciful scene is a design for a glass cup and is explained in the inscription at the bottom of the sheet: white wine should be poured into one tube and red wine into the other, so that the red wine fills the eagles and snakes, and the white wine fills the rest.

Stefano della Bella began this work by creating a preliminary sketch in black chalk. He then worked the sketch using a finely sharpened quill pen. Avoiding hard outlines, della Bella used tiny hair-like strokes for the contours to define the forms. A blue wash evokes the presence of liquid inside a transparent shell.

Della Bella made this design for a member of the Medici family in Florence. Elaborate glass table ornaments were common at the Medici court and often accompanied ceremonial banquets. However, this drawing's complexity suggests that a goblet constructed to its fantastic design never graced the tabletop at a Medici feast. Instead, it served as an example of artistic ingenuity, admired by the patron as proof of della Bella's imaginative powers.

Provenance

Thomas Tomkins, London, British, 1743 - 1816

February 25-28, 1818

Sir Robert Stayner Holford, English, 1808 - 1892, [part of lot 289]

Lieut. Col. Sir George L. Holford, British, active 1860s, by inheritance

May 22, 1928

Sotheby's (London), (part of lot 29B)

March 18, 1975

Christie's (London), (lot 83)

H. Shickman Gallery

January 22, 2003

Christie's (New York), (lot 35)

Exhibitions
Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (February 6 to May 20, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 6 to May 20, 2007
Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (March 31 to July 5, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 31 to July 5, 2009