Niccolò dell’Abbate

Niccolò dell’Abbate (1512 – 1571), sometimes Nicolò and Abate was an Italian Mannerist painter in fresco and oils He was of the Emilian school, and was part of the team of artists called the School of Fontainebleau that introduced the Italianate Renaissance to France He may be found indexed under either “Niccolò” or “Abbate”, though the former is more correct

Niccolò dell’Abbate was born in Modena, the son of a violinistHe, perhaps in 1509 or 1512. His education was first made by his father, the sculptor John, and then by Antonio Begarelli, a modenese plasticizer that was transformed into a classicism of the raffaellesque and Corregge matrix. His first documented work, in collaboration with Alberto Fontana, is the decoration of the Beccherie in Modena of 1537, of which some fragments remain in the Estense Gallery of the town: Concerts, Allegories and a San Giminiano. Roberto Longhi attributes to this period the Madonna and Child and the saints Peter and Paul in the church of Modena, St. Peter, in which was also the shrine with The Martyrdom of the Saints Peter and Paul, moved to Dresden and destroyed during the Second War World, in which there were references to the painting of Correggio and in particular of Parmigianino, fundamental for the development of all his painting.

Since 1539 he has his own independent shop, and works for the surrounding area. Towards 1540, she decorates Scandiano’s fortress with the stories of Orlando and Eneide, which now stand out, are in the Estense Gallery. Around 1545 he realized the decoration of the fortress of Sassuolo with Roman Stories and the furious Orland, lost. Between 1540 and 1543 he painted wall paintings in the Meli Lupi fortress of Soragna and in Busseto. In 1546 in Modena, she decorates the Sala del Fuoco of the Palazzo Comunale with episodes of Roman history.

He trained together with Alberto Fontana in the studio of Antonio Begarelli, a local Modenese sculptor; early influences included Ferrarese painters such as Garofalo and Dosso Dossi He specialized in long friezes with secular and mythological subjects, including for the Palazzo dei Beccherie (1537); in various rooms of the Rocca di Scandiano owned by the counts Boiardo he created 12 frescoes, one for each book of The Aenid, and notably a courtly ceiling Concert composed of a ring of young musicians seen in perspective, Sotto in Su (early 1540s), and the Hercules Room in the Rocca Meli Lupi at Soragna (c 1540–43), and possibly the loggia frescoes removed from Palazzo Casotti at Reggio Emilia

His style was modified by exposure to Correggio and Parmigianino, when he moved to Bologna in 1547 In Bologna, most of his painting depicted elaborate landscapes and aristocratic genre scenes of hunting and courtly loves, often paralleled in mythologic narratives It was during this time that he decorated the Palazzo Poggi, and executed a cycle of frescoes illustrating Orlando Furioso in the ducal palace at Sassuolo, near Modena Bologna is also the location of his illustrations for Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and where he was celebrated in a sonnet which compares him to Raphael and Titian among others One of his early pieces that cemented his reputation was the Martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, in the church of the abbey of San Pietro, Modena

He spent 1548 through 1552 in Bologna, where he gained influence from Correggio and Parmigianino His surviving stucco-surface landscape in the Palazzo dell’Università shows his maturing style

In 1552, Niccolò moved to France, where he worked at the royal Château de Fontainebleau as a member of the decorating team under the direction of Francesco Primaticcio Within two years of his arrival he was drawing a project for a decor commemorating Anne de Montmorency (preparatory drawing at the Louvre) In Paris, he frescoed the chapel ceiling in the Hôtel de Guise (destroyed), following Primaticcio’s designs He also executed private commissions for portable canvases of mythological subjects sited in landscapes He designed a series of tapestries titles Les Mois Arabesques, some of which were used by the painted enamel industry of Limoges Much of his output reflected an often overlooked function of artists of the time: the ephemeral festive decorations erected to celebrate special occasions in the court circle, for example, the decorations for the triumphal entry into Paris staged for Charles IX and his bride Elisabeth of Austria His final pieces, in 1571, were 16 murals which were done with the assistance of his son Giulio Camillo That year, Niccolò died in Fontainebleau, France

Between 1567 and 1571 he worked at the Hôtel du Faur. In Fontainebleau, he carries out the decoration of Chambre du Roi and Chambre de la Duchesse d’Étampes in 1570, where he died in 1571. In the French period he also painted Euridice’s Death, which was preserved in the National Gallery of London.

His sons are the painters Giulio Camillo, perhaps Christopher, known in France as Christophe Labbé, and a John of the Abbot, of whom there is some news in Paris from 1585 to 1593.

Niccolò’s great-nephew, Ercole Abbate of Modena (1573-1613), was one of his pupils

Niccolò is best known for his mythological landscape subjects, which introduced the Flemish world landscape into French art, such as the Orpheus and Landscape with the Death of Eurydice in the National Gallery, London and the Rape of Prosperine in the Louvre, and for his profuse and elegant drawings Not many of his frescoes have survived; however the Louvre does have a collection of his drawings Many of his canvasses were burnt in 1643, by the Austrian regent, Anne Some of his landscapes for Charles IX were influential for the 17th century painters Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin