Allegorie der Malerei, 1. Hälfte 19. Jahrhundert
This drawing by Madrid painter Andrés Rossi was used as the cover for a set of Spanish drawings from the collection of José Atanasio Echeverría that arrived at the Kunsthalle in 1891. According to the accompanying handwritten inscription, it is an “Original by D. Andrés Rossi, / native of Madrid. It repre-/ sents the Genius of Painting de- / feating Ignorance, at his / right Minerva, who as God- / dess and protector of the Sciences, I and the Arts, shows him that / the study of Optics is among the / most essential; and in the upper / part is visible Fame, who / publishes the progress of Art,/ the enchantress of Painting.” It depicts the allegorical figure of Painting, a winged genie who vanquishes ignorance, as well as the goddess Minerva, the allegory of Optics and Fame proclaiming art's progress.
Rossi began studying painting at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in 1795, where he received prizes in 1799 and 1802. Following active participation in the Dos de Mayo uprising of May 2, 1808, against the French occupation of Madrid, he settled permanently in Seville, where he was professor of perspective and assistant director of painting at the Escuela de las Tres Nobles Artes from 1814 until his death in 1849. His oeuvre is barely known except for his drawings for engravings and lithographs, a few prints, and a single recognized painting: a still life signed by him in Seville that is now in a private collection in Madrid. Among his illustrations, his drawings from the first years of the nineteenth century for the Sancha press are particularly outstanding, especially an album at the Biblioteca Nacional de España intended for an edition of Miguel de Cervantes' Labors of Persiles and Sigismunda, which w as published in Madrid in 1802.
Among Rossi's drawings for Sancha is an allegory of Painting that Manuel Álvarez de Mon (1777–1816) engraved for the publication in 1804 of Wonders of the Brush and Burin as Sung in Four Silvas* by Don Juan Moreno de Texada. While that print correctly handles the perspective in various planes, its iconography is far less complex than that of this drawing. Here, the goddess Minerva, protector of the arts and sciences, bears the attributes of war: a helmet, a pike, and a Medusa's head on her chest. She stands at the center of the composition, introducing the figures of Painting and Optics with her arms. The winged genie sits in the foreground, painting with the brush in her hand. The mask that hangs from her neck symbolizes the imitation of reality. The easel bearing her canvas rests on a human figure lying on the ground. Following Cesare Ripa's Iconology, the latter's donkey head and deformed body represent ignorance of all things. Moreover, in his right hand, this grotesque personage holds a tortoise symbolizing the slowness and difficulty of the ignoramus's tortuous path and its distance from virtue. Finally, in the background to the left, the allegory of Optics appears as a woman holding a lens through which light shines, thus emphasizing the special link between science and art.
1 For the biography of Andrés Rossi, see Ibáñez Álvarez 2010, 49–77.
2 Pérez Sánchez 1983, 192.
* Trans. note: The Spanish Royal Academy defines 'Silva' as: “A metrical, non-strophic combination that freely alternates seven and twelve-syllable verses” or “a poetic composition written in silva.'