(b. 1504, Bologna, d. 1570, Paris)

An allegorical figure of Prudence

Red lead oxide and red wash, heightened with white, 218 x 139 mm
Private collection

This drawing is a preliminary study by Primaticcio for one of the figures adorning the doors of armoires in the Cabinet du Roi of François I at Fontainebleau.

At the death of his mother, Louise de Savoie, in 1531, François I took over the apartments he had prepared for her at Fontainebleau which from being called the Cabinet de Madame became the Cabinet du Roi. The function of a Cabinet is not completely understood, although probably it can be compared to the Italian studiolo, a place in which to keep precious objects and art treasures as evidence of the refinement and cultivated taste of the King, as well as a setting in which to emphasise, through its iconographical program, both his moral virtues and heroic qualities.

The Cabinet du Roi was decorated between 1541 and 1545, but is now destroyed and very little is known about its appearance. According to records, the room contained four armoires each decorated with a pair of figures, a virtue and an illustrative hero, one on each door and facing each other, beneath which were small panels with historical scenes in grisaille. The designs of the figures were conceived and executed by Primaticcio, but the painted decoration was done by assistants.

The present drawing is Primaticcio's finished study for the figure of Prudence. That for her companion hero, Ulysses, is in the Louvre, also in red monochrome. Of the other pairs, Primaticcio's finished studies for Justice and her hero Zaleucus, both yellow-ochre monochromes, are in the Louvre. That for Temperance, also in yellow-ochre, is in the British Museum, while her companion, Scipio, is known only from Primaticcio's drawing in pen and ink and wash. The red monochrome for Fortitude is now in the Art Institute of Chicago, but her companion, Caesar, is known only from Primaticcio's pen and ink and wash drawing of François I as Caesar, now in the Musée Condé, Chantilly.