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Stefano Della Bella etchings, circa 1642-1650

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Finding aid for the Stefano Della Bella etchings, circa 1642-1650

Biographical/Historical Note

Stefano Della Bella was born and died in Florence. His father, Francesco Della Bella, was a sculptor in Giambologna's workshop; and his brothers followed the trades of goldsmith, sculptor, and painter. He first worked in gold-and metalsmiths' workshops, then studied painting with Cesare Dandini, and finally studied etching, which became his chosen career. Supported by Don Lorenzo de Medici (d.1640), he worked in Florence from 1633 to 1639, with a series of trips to Rome to study from the antique. In 1639 he went to Paris, where he etched plates sold by François Langlois (called Ciartres, 1589-1647), Israël Henriet (ca1590-1661), and Pierre I Mariette (1603-57). He also received official commissions from Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin. He returned to Florence in 1650 after French hostility to Mazarin erupted in the Fronde and extended to all Italians. With the exception of a single trip to Rome, he remained in Florence until his death but continued to send plates and prints to Paris publishers. Retained by Prince Mattias de Medici, Della Bella gave drawing lessons to Mattias's nephew Cosimo III, the son of Grand Duke Ferdinand II (1610-70).

Throughout his life, Della Bella drew in the open air, reporting on important events and places and rarely copying others' compositions. He made over a thousand prints and thousands of drawings. He etched most of his plates himself, providing plates for his Medici patrons and Parisian commercial publishers. He etched subjects from the Bible and lives of the saints, portraits, and allegories. His genre scenes included images of animals, children, and exotic figures; and views of public life, rural scenes, marines, hunting, and military scenes. He represented actual places in topographic plans and views and actual events such as festivals or ceremonies. His ornament prints included ornaments for theses, frontispieces, vignettes, drawing aids, games, and rebuses; his delicate asymmetries, sense of fantasy, and inventiveness prefigure the rococo of a century later.

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