ABBATE, Niccolò dell'
(b. 1509, Modena, d. 1571, Fontainebleau)

Death of Eurydice

Oil on canvas, 189 x 238 cm
National Gallery, London

King Francis I of France concentrated his patronage of art and artists on the decoration of the Chateau of Fontainebleau. To this and he imported such major artists as he could. He did get the aging Leonardo, he imported Rosso in 1530, Primaticcio in 1532, then Niccolò dell'Abbate, Vignola, Andrea del Sarto, Cellini. Some stayed, some went back; but the work they left behind was decisive in the replacement of Gothic style in France.

The Fontainebleau decorations included a Long Gallery, a Ballroom and several royal rooms. Only a fraction survives, since much were destroyed in later rebuildings, and most of the paintings were drastically restored in the nineteenth century.

Niccolò dell'Abbate arrived about 1552. His main contribution was his fantastic landscapes, which are a genre quite apart from either the poetic realism found in late fifteenth-century Italian pictures, or the homely kind in the background of the Raphael cartoons. They have a dreamlike quality with extremes of light and colour, rainbows and flickering storms.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 7 minutes):
Cristoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo, Act I, Orpheus' aria in G Major