Giulio Romano, Three Shell-Shaped Salt Cellars, pen and ink wash designs


British Museum

British Museum

These three designs for metal, probably silver, salt cellars are drawn in pen and brown ink with brown wash. Giulio Romano made many similar designs for his patrons the Dukes of Mantua. Romano's use of brown wash to suggest the solidity of the dishes is particularly fine. The strong outline and simple decoration provided a clear guide for the goldsmith to make the object. Renaissance artists frequently supplied designs for such objects, the majority of which do not survive.The upper drawing shows a swan, the small scallop-shaped salt dish attached to its neck by a ribbon, perhaps causing the swan's angry, open beak. The other two drawings show the shell-shaped dish supported by the bodies of three dolphins, drawn in the classical style.Giulio Romano (around 1499-1546) was born and trained in Rome, where he worked in the studio of Raphael, until the artist's death in 1520. In 1524 he worked for the Ducal court at Mantua, a small city in north-east Italy. For his patrons and rulers, the Gonzaga family, he designed all manner of objects for the court, from tableware and decoration, to paintings, fresco cycles and buildings. Giulio's brilliance as a designer was spread widely through engravings made after his work, and he is the only Italian artist mentioned by William Shakespeare (in The Winter's Tale).

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  • Title: Giulio Romano, Three Shell-Shaped Salt Cellars, pen and ink wash designs
  • Date Created: 1514/1546
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 292.00mm; Width: 175.00mm (sight measurement)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: metalwork
  • Registration number: 1874,0808.79
  • Producer: Attributed to Giulio Romano
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Howard, Hugh


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