Drawings from the Uffizi - revisited

Giovanni Battista Natali: a case of two artists with the same name

The Malvezzi collection, created by Cardinal Vincenzo Malvezzi in Bologna in the eighteenth century, entered the collections of the Uffizi in 1906. A small group of sheets (seven in all), designs for decorations and altars, were attributed to Giovanni Battista Natali, a Bolognese architect active in the first half of the seventeenth century. Pasquale Nerino Ferri, however, concluded that the artist in question was not the Bolognese Natali but a Lombard artist of the same name. This error was undoubtedly abetted both by the post-Romantic depreciation of the Bolognese school and by the negative assessment of Natali as a mere ‘tecnico’ that characterized the period in which Ferri lived. This belittling judgment is also reflected in the inaccuracies about Natali’s works in the authoritative early twentieth-century biographical dictionary of artists, Thieme-Becker. More recent analysis of these sheets has permitted new light to be shed not only on the criteria that determined Malvezzi’s collection, but also on the career of an interesting and little-known artist. However, from among the drawings formerly gathered under the Bolognese Natali’s name, only one bearing a signed contract on the reverse can be regarded as an autograph work, while the others probably belong to artists who worked with him at various times. These latter include a study by Girolamo Rainaldi, who worked with Natali on the ceiling of the nave of San Petronio in Bologna, and the design for an altar at Barricella, a small town on the outskirts of Bologna to which the inscription on the sheet refers.

Giovanni Battista Natali (active in Bologna, c.1575-1650), Design for an altar aedicule (Bologna, church of S. Benedetto in Galliera, Pasi Chapel), Inv. 20247 F

Collaborator of Giovanni Battista Natali (active in Bologna, c.1575-1650), Design for an altar aedicule, Inv. 20252 F

Gerolamo Rainaldi (Rome, 1570-1655), Design for a ceiling decoration (Reggio Emilia, Cathedral, Toschi Chapel), Inv. 20253 F

© KHI in Florence | 26.09.2020 09:36:16