hugely talented and prolific artist, Stefano della Bella succeeded Jacques Callot as Medici court designer and printmaker. Between 1639 and 1650 he worked in France, establishing a flourishing career in Paris and publishing numerous prints; indeed, the majority of his prints date from this fertile period. After his return to Florence in 1650, Della Bella continued to enjoy Medici patronage. His oeuvre numbers over 1,000 etchings, and many times more drawings; all works of considerable energy and inventiveness.
This drawing is similar in format, and may be contemporary with, a series of twelve prints entitled Divers Paysages. Dedicated to Louis II de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghien, and published by IsraÎl Henriet in Paris, this series of landscape etchings has been dated by Alexandre de Vesme to c.1643, during Della Bella’s stay in France. In the absence of a firm date of publication, however, it is also possible that these prints were designed in the 1650’s, following the artist’s return to Florence, and that the plates sent to Paris to be printed.
This drawing was once part of an important album of drawings by Stefano Della Bella assembled by the calligrapher Thomas Tomkins (1743-1816)1. Containing a representative selection of Della Bella’s drawings from the entire course of his career, the album is first recorded in 1818 at the posthumous sale of the Tomkins collection, which also included a large number of engravings after Old Masters and drawings by contemporary English artists, as well as Dutch paintings. The Tomkins album was later acquired by the prominent collector and connoisseur Robert Holford (1808-1892), remaining intact in the Holford collection until its sale at auction in London in 1928, when some drawings were removed. Nevertheless, some 241 of the Tomkins drawings, including the present sheet, remained together as a group until finally dispersed at auction at Christie’s in London in 1975.