GRASSI, Giovannino de'
(b. ca. 1350, Milano, d. 1398, Milano)

Model Book

Manuscript (Ms. VII. 14), 260 x 185 mm
Biblioteca Civica, Bergamo

The noble animal (a stag) is depicted as seen from one side, it only turns its head, sorrowful in an almost human way, towards the spectator. In this case de'Grassi abstained, perhaps, from a strictly profile representation, in order to display the decorative shape of the antlers more fully. At first sight the picture appears to be extraordinarily true to life, but if we examine it more closely we cannot fail to see that it would not be a perfect illustration in a zoological book. The different parts of the stag point to very exact observation, all the same the whole of the body seems to be somewhat rigid, lifeless and even out of proportion. The artist was so engrossed in interpreting the different details accurately that he did not pay much attention to their relationship to one another. Thus the head is too small in proportion to the body and the right hind leg is not quite correctly fitted to the haunch. The other shortcoming is the fact that the fur, conveyed with exceeding delicacy, so that it seems almost tactile, covers a body almost lacking muscles and bones-in a way similar to that in which the draperies painted with meticulous care at that period conceal the human body beneath them. For the same reason the position of the right hind leg is incomprehensible, which is why we pay attention, first and foremost, to the miraculously painted fur, and to the manner in which the tiny strokes of the brush cover the whole body.