Edited by Luca Fiorentino

This preparatory sheet for the Palazzo della Meridiana in Genoa constitutes an important attestation of the artistic expression and successful career of Luca Cambiaso.

The drawing shows what is defined as the artist’s stereometric style: the famous cubic module for which Cambiaso is widely known among modern critics and collectors. This was Cambiaso’s method of organising the space, structure and poses of his ‘mannequins’ in his compositions.

For his contemporaries as well as for later artists, collectors over the centuries and scholars of this type of drawing, it had great visual impact, producing new ideas and theoretical reasoning that often went beyond style and subject.

As Jonathan Bober noted, “the cube system, in the form it would take in the 1560s, would remain the foundation of Cambiaso’s drawing [...]. Much more importantly, this interiorized geometry would continue to determine the space, the composition and the expression of painterly ideas”1.

Luca Cambiaso, Study for the Return of Ulysses - Princeton University Art Museum
Luca Cambiaso, Study for the Return of Ulysses - Princeton University Art Museum

The first drawings by Cambiaso that demonstrate the use of jointed wooden mannequins are those created for Villa Cattaneo-Imperiale and for Palazzo della Meridiana2. The drawing in question here is also a rare historical testimony, inasmuch as it is a preparatory study for one of the decorations for Palazzo Grimaldi della Meridiana in Genoa, at the western end of the city’s Strada Nuova.

Luca Cambiaso, Banquet (1565 c.). Genova, Palazzo della Meridiana
Luca Cambiaso, Banquet (1565 c.). Genova, Palazzo della Meridiana

After the stucco decorations commissioned to Antonio da Lugano (based on Bergamasco’s design) in 1565, Cambiaso turned his attention to wall decorations. The wall paintings are all visual interpretations of the Odyssey. They are highly wrought, densely packed with characters, while at the same time being well-balanced compositions.

The drawing that should be viewed alongside this one is conserved at the Princeton University Art Museum3. Both works are characterised by carefully studied lighting, and are compositions in which no element is spoiled by the union of hand and calligraphy, and everything appears natural and ‘ideally’ calculated.

1 See: Jonathan Bober, I disegni di Luca Cambiaso, in Luca Cambiaso. Un maestro del Cinquecento europeo, catalogue from the exhibition curated by Piero Boccardo, Franco Boggero, Clario di Fabio and Lauro Magnani, with the collaboration of Jonathan Bober, Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, Musei di Strada Nuova - Palazzo Rosso March 3 – July 8 2007, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2007, p. 79.

On Cambiaso’s drawing and painting see:

Lauro Magnani, Luca Cambiaso da Genova all’Escorial, Genoa, 1995; Federica Mancini, Luca Cambiaso, Louvre Cabinet des Dessins, Milano, 2010;

Luca Cambiaso. Ricerche e restauri, Acts of the Conference promoted by the Comune di Moneglia with the Support of the Accademia Ligure di Scienze e Lettere, Moneglia (Genoa), 11-12 May 2007, Oratorio dei Disciplinati, Genoa, 2009.

On the development and influence of Cambiaso’s stereometric style of artists in successive centuries see the interesting and amusing volume: Geometrie der Figur. Luca Cambiaso und die moderne Kunst, von Heribert Schulz, mit einer Einführung von Christa Lichtenstern, sowie einem Beitrag von Lauro Magnani, exhibition catalogue, Kulturgeschichtlichen Museum Osnabrück, January 28 – April 15, 2007, Osnabrück, 2007.

2 Cf.: Jonathan Bober, I disegni di Luca Cambiaso cit., pp. 78-82.

3 The drawing from the Princeton University Art Museum, also preparatory for the Palazzo della Meridiana in Genoa, depicts Ulysses shooting arrows at the Proci; pen, brush and brown ink, brown wash on beige paper with sanguine pencil cubic grid, 198 x 345 mm., Inv. 1946-155.

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