Drawing the Human Body

Odoardo Fialetti, Frontispiece of Il vero modo et ordine, Venice 1608

The multitude of Venetian works in the collection, and especially on the walls of her later estate suggest that the Countess spent considerable time looking for Venetian paintings. There is evidence that the art dealer and etcher Odoardo Fialetti was constantly at her side. Before her departure, Lady Arundel rewarded Fialetti generously with gold and jewels, according to Malvasia’s Felsina Pittrice:
“(…) già capitando a Venezia l’Illustriss. Ed Eccellentiss. Signora Alathea Talbot, moglie dell’Illustriss. Ed. Eccellentiss. Sig. Co. Tomaso Hovvardo di Rondel, Dama che molto dilettavasi del disegno, ricorse alla virtù di esso Fialetti, il quale esercitò egregiamente i suoi talenti e fu regalato di collane, gioie e monete d’oro (…)” (Malvasia , Felsina Pittrice 1678, see also Jennifer Fletcher, The Arundels in the Veneto 1996).

In Venice, Lady Arundel acted as an independent art connoisseur and collector, who was also highly invested in gathering valuable information in the field of medicine and anatomy. For both interests, which were strongly connected at the time, Odoardo Fialetti was the perfect contact. He was the author of an influential anatomical drawing book and widely known for his expertise in the field of anatomy. In 1616 Fialetti had completed the printing plates for Giulio Casseri’s Tabulae Anatomicae (Laura Walters, Odoardo Fialetti: The Interrelation of Venetian Art and Anatomy 2009).


Odoardo Fialetti, Anatomy, 1616, in Giulio Casseri, Tabulae Anatomicae, Venice 1627

Fialetti had already completed his main work, a step-by-step guide to drawing the human body, in 1608: Il Vero Modo et Ordine per Dissegnar Tutte le Parti et Membra del Corpo Humano. After the publication of the true way and order of drawing all the parts and members of the human body, Fialetti frequently was employed to create more of his sophisticated anatomical drawings.

Odoardo Fialetti, Scherzi d’Amore – Venus grooming Cupid, Venice 1617

On his first visit in 1614, Fialetti dedicated four prints with depictions of gods after Pordenone to Lord Arundel, one of them depicting the goddess Diana mentioned in an earlier blog article as a possible inspiration for Rubens. In 1617, a year after Lord Roos had bequeathed his antiquities to the Earl of Arundel, Fialetti dedicated the Scherzi d’Amore to the generous donor. The depictions of Venus and Cupid, which are accompanied by whimsical rhymes on the subject of love, testify to a deep friendship and familiarity and are conceivable as Arundel’s commission for Lord Roos out of gratitude for the donation (Susan Bracken, The Early Cecils and Italianate Taste 2003). Fialetti was very influential in his time as both practitioner and connoisseur. His students include Marco Boschini, who became known as the author of art guides on Venetian art, invaluable art historical sources (Jennifer Fletcher, Marco Boschini and Paolo del Sera: Collectors and Connoisseurs of Venice 1979).

The diplomat and painter Edward Norgate also was a member of Lady Arundel’s circle. In his painting treatise Miniatura or the Art of Limning, dedicated to Lady Arundel’s son in 1657, Norgate mentions Odoardo Fialetti and his drawing book. In his treatise he recommends his engravings as the first and best model for drawing students: “To begin then as the best beginners doe, I would advise you to get a good hand in hatching, by copying the best prints cut in Copper you can get, viz of Henry Goltzius, John Sadler, with his Brother Egidius, excellent Gravers, Harman, and John Muller, Sandredame, Vorster man & c., but principally that excellent booke in folio of Jacomo Palma and graved by Edwardo Phialetti, my old acquaintance in Venice ”(Edward Norgate: Miniatura or the Art of Limning, 1997).

Norgate’s treatise is clearly based on Fialetti’s step-by-step instructions. The painter possibly stayed in Italy with Lady Arundel for a whole year and met Fialetti multiple times in Palazzo Mocenigo. Norgates’ treatise is best known for its profound characterization of the genre of landscape. His contribution to the theory of landscape has been widely discussed (Ulrike Kern, The Concept of Reddering in Netherlandish Art 2011; Michael Zell, Landscape’s Pleasures 2006; James Turner, Landscape and the ‘Art Prospective’ in England, 1979).

Norgate’s manuscript and the wide circulation of Fialetti’s instructions are strong indications of an interest in drawing in broader circles, and in particular among the English nobility. But while Norgate did not finish his manuscript long after his return from Venice and therefore belongs to a different time, Henry Peacham’s The Art of Drawing and Fialetti’s drawing book were created almost simultaneously and published only two years apart. Peacham’s The Art of Drawing with the Pen, and Limming in Water Colors, was published as early as 1606, two years before Fialetti’s drawing book.


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