A Knight with two horses hewing his way though a wood

Paduan School

A Knight with two horses hewing his way though a wood

Paduan School


A reproduction produced by the Vasari Society of a drawing from the Paduan School. The drawing shows a knight accompanied by two horses. The knight holds a sword over his shoulder, slicing down trees in his path. The trees are drawn in a stylized manner, with bare trunks and conical tops. A mountain or hill rises in the distance with the outline of a castle at the top of it. Several birds are in the sky. The sun is shown in the top left-hand corner; a child's head is the body of the sun, and rays are emanating from it and pouring out of its mouth. Text from the accompanying booklet produced by the Vasari Society: "1. PADUAN SCHOOL (about 1465) A KNIGHT WITH TWO HORSES HEWING HIS WAY THROUGH A WOOD From the Collections of Baron Mayer de Rothschild and the Earl of Rosebery, K.G. British Museum, 1920. 2. 14. 1 (26). Pen and bistre, on vellum. 21.7 x 15.9 cm. (8 1/2 x 6 1/4 in.). A page from the Paduan Sketch-book, presented to the British Museum by the Earl of Rosebery in 1920. The book contains twenty-six leaves of vellum, measuring about 8 1/2 x 6 1/4 inches, inset into leaves of blue paper and bound in calf in a volume with pages measuring 13 x 10 inches. The drawings were engraved in 1795 by Francesco Novelli, who states in his preface that they were found in 1765 in Padua, where they had been forgotten for three centuries, by the painter Giambattista de' Rubeis, who in his turn had given them to the engraver's father, Pietro Antonio Novelli. The present mounting and binding were no doubt done at this period. The back of the last page (in the present order) bears the signature of a sixteenth-century owner of the series: Questo libro fu di mi mathio macigni fio di mr ruberto micigni, This Mathio Macigni is known from contemporary records to have been buried in Padua in 1582. His father Ruberto, nobile Fiorentino e cittadino Veneto, settled in Padua in 1500.¹ The leaves as at present bound do not follow the original order. Arabic numerals 2-26 (20 and 24 somewhat uncertain) are found in the original hand in the upper right of the vellum leaves, and the present last leaf recto is numbered with a Roman II in the upper left of the drawing. This leaf was undoubtedly the first of the series in its original form, the owner's signature being on page 1, the Roman II indicating verso. The numbering of Novelli's engravings bears no relation to either the original order or the present arrangement. The Novelli series is extremely rare. The British Museum only possessed an incomplete set with title, 2 plates of dedication and prefatory matter and 26 other plates. A complete series, 50 plates in addition to the title and 2 plates of dedication and prefatory matter, is in the collection of Mr. Arthur Kay, of Edinburgh.² The drawings were attributed by Novelli to Mantegna. They are unquestionably of the School of Squarcione, but no less unquestionably by some other hand than Mantegna's. The original attribution was founded on a resemblance in style to the so-called 'Tarocchi Cards of Mantegna' now generally recognized as Ferrarese in origin. Novelli's series includes two pages (his Nos. 43 and 44) of Studies of the Madonna and Child, of which the original leaf (from the Salting Collection) is in the British Museum and attributed to Marco Zoppo (reproduced Vasari Society, II. 15 and 16). Novelli took these from another source, his inscriptions noting them as in the collection of Pietro Bini. They are on paper and in a much freer manner of draughtsmanship than the vellum drawings, though one of these (the present leaf 2, Novelli No. 3) is comparable in general elements of style. The drawings are not the work of a great master, and it is only a lucky chance that is likely to supply the link and reveal the authorship. He is perhaps nearest in manner to Marco Zoppo and Bernardo Parentino, among the other artists of the Squarcione School. The precise manner of drawing makes one suspect that the hand might be that of an engraver. Possibly he may have been making the designs, drawn from various sources, for a series of engravings. Apart from the direct inspiration of the School of Squarcione, there are side influences such as that of Pisanello in figure and costume studies such as occur on leaves 6, 7, 10 and 17 (present order). In subject there seems to be little continuity of idea except in the constant repetition on the verso of nearly every leaf of a fancy head in fantastic helmet. The main subjects contain scenes from mythology, Hylas and the Nymphs (page 22, not engraved), Venus and Cupids (page 25, not engraved), from history, e.g. Death of Seneca (?) (page 23), numerous groups of children playing, scenes from contemporary court life, &c. An anonymous Italian engraving of the same period, the Death of Orpheus (P. V. 47, 100; British Museum, Hind, E. III. 1), appears to have been based on one of the drawings (or on a common original), though the drawing (p. 22) is uncertain in subject, as there is no instrument as token of Orpheus, while a lion's skin appears to point to Hercules. Another anonymous North Italian engraving (Hind, E. III. 7) is similar in style to the profile heads with fantastic helmets, and a third print of the same period, Two men in a landscape, one playing a lute (P. V. 189, 102; Hind, E. III. 20), is a close analogy with the costume subjects from court life. A. M. H. [Campbell Dodgson in The Times, February 17, 1920.] [¹ Details supplied by Abbate G. Nicoletti through Mr. Horatio Brown, of Venice, in 1893. Taken from the Codice Cicogni n. 2928: Memorie di Cittadini Veneziani, p. 319, and the Collezione Coletti: Inscriptiones in Urbe et extra Urbem, Vol. MS. 36a, Raccolta, p. 97. VIII] [² Presented, since the above was written, to the British Museum.]"

Object Name

A Knight with two horses hewing his way though a wood

Creators Name

Paduan School

Date Created


accession number


Collection Group

fine art

Place of creation



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