Ca' Rezzonico

Ca' Rezzonico

FRANCESCO FONTEBASSO (1707 - 1769). Album of Drawings.

The Old Testament

The Archangel Michael defeating the Rebel Angels (black pencil, pen and brush, brown ink, white lead). Armed with sword and shield, the Archangel Michael drives the rebel angels out of heaven. The overall composition and the undignified poses of the angels tumbling downwards recall those in the fresco of the same subject which the artist painted in the apse chapel of the Trento church of Our Lady of the Annunciation in 1736-1737; that work was destroyed during bombing raids in 1944.

The Bronze Serpent (black pencil, pen and brown ink, brush and sanguine ink, white lead). This depicts an episode from the life of Moses in the Old Testament (Numbers, 21,4-9). Tired of wandering in the desert in search of the Promised Land, the Israelites rebel, and the Lord punishes them by sending poisonous snakes into their camp. Penitent, the people turn to Moses asking him to interceded with God. The Lord then orders the prophet to cast a bronze serpent and raise it on a tall pole, promising that all those bitten by the poisonous snakes will be saved from death if they look upon this image.

Joseph sold into Slavery by his Brothers (black pencil, pen and brown ink, brush and sanguine ink, white lead). This is one of the two sheets in the album dedicated to the story of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob and the firstborn of his marriage with Rachel. Jealous of the favour shown the boy by their father, his elder brothers plan first to kill him, then decide to sell him to some Ishmaelite slave traders on their way to Egypt, where the complex story of Joseph’s life will play itself out (Genesis, 37-50). This is the one drawing in the album that has an exact counterpart in painting. With only slight variations, that picture, now in the Pushkin Museum (Moscow), has the same overall composition as the drawing and contains the same figures.

Joseph Interprets the Dreams of his Fellow Prisoners (black pencil, pen and brown ink, brush and sanguine ink, white lead). Again dedicated to the story of Joseph, this sheet shows the young man in jail, after he has been falsely accused of trying to rape the wife of the Egyptian general, Potiphar. Here he encounters the pharaoh’s cupbearer and his steward, correctly interpreting their dreams to mean that the former will be restored to favour and the latter hanged.