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Centaur and Lapith
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Francesco Primaticcio
Italian, about 1540
Red chalk
8 9/16 x 10 15/16 in.
89.GB.66

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Given the ornamental character of this drawing and the scene's relative lack of movement, court artist Francesco Primaticcio probably made it as a preparatory study for costume designs for a festival. The color notes that he included also support the idea of a costume design, since the assistants in his workshop would have needed such notes to faithfully re-create his design in fabric. Several of his other costume designs include elaborately decorated helmets such as the one this centaur wears. Primaticcio probably depicted only one element in a larger composition celebrating the popular story of the neighboring tribes of the centaurs and the Lapiths. According to classical mythology, the Lapiths invited the centaurs to their king's wedding, but the centaurs responded by carrying off the Lapith women-even the bride-under the influence of wine. The battle that ensued ended with the centaurs' defeat and expulsion from the Lapiths' country.

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