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Della Bella, Stefano (Italian, b.1610, d.1664)
Ornamenti di fregi e fogliami
Circa 1650
etching
79 x 252 mm plate size
195-1982
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1982 by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
Stefano della Bella was an enormously prolific artist, producing over 1000 etchings alone. He was born in Florence and worked there for the Medici court before, in 1639, travelling to Paris in the entourage of the Florentine ambassador. He produced the majority of his etchings during the decade he stayed in the French capital.
Della Bella’s powers of invention are nowhere better demonstrated than in this set of ornamental prints. The intricate merging of animal, leaf and human forms is achieved with extraordinary variety. The artist borrows motifs from antique Roman sculpture, painted architectural decoration and heraldry, then recombines them to create these rich works bursting with life.
This beautiful etching is the last in the set of sixteen ornamental prints published in Paris after January 1647, when François Langlois, della Bella’s publisher, died and the business passed into the control of his widow. These small-scale and finely detailed etchings were much appreciated by collectors, either to be enjoyed for their own sake or to be used as models for ornamental carving on furniture or metalwork. They have subsequently come to be viewed as an important source for early 18th-century Rococo ornament.

not on view

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