Fabriques in Paintings 1: Sebastian Vrancx. Part B. The Setting and Architecture

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Fig. 1. Sebastian Vrancx (Antwerp, 1573 – Antwerp, 1647), An Elegant Company Dining Outdoors, c. 1610–1620. Oil on oak. 91 × 126 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Inv. 58.27. Image from the Museum website.

This series of posts (A-C) discusses depictions of small buildings that I feel inclined to appropriate to the category of fabriques. They work outwards from the fabrique to the image as a whole, as required. Images by the author unless otherwise stated.

As with all paintings by Sebastian Vranx, his An Elegant Company Dining Outdoors the in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest is a composite of elements derived from various sources, which is what makes it interesting (Fig. 1).[1] In part A I discussed the elements drawn from the Villa d’Este.

The foreground is essentially a stage set, with a portico with veined columns at the right facing a horseshoe staircase that encloses a statue of Pegasus striking the rock inspired by the one at the Villa d’Este. The middle ground sends mixed messages. There are formal gardens on either side of a pool which is almost impossible not to read as being set at a lower level than he main stage, but there are no steps on the path which is at the same level as the main stage. Similarly the wall at the left is both a wall with a gateway and a retaining wall of a terace that supports the trellis fabrique. The third distance is an open square surrounded by walls with a tower in one corner and a rusticated gateway. This has the air of being a space with topographical roots in some open space in Rome. Beyond this is the landscape proper.

The vanishing points of the porch, pool, and terrace are consistent and located low on the centre line of the rusticated gate (Fig. 2). The vanishing point of the wall with a tower is shifted slightly to the right, and possibly fractionally lower. The trellised archway at the end of the pool is in fact huge, much higher than the porch if it were repeated at the near end of the pool.

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Fig. 2. Vrancx Elegant Company with perspective construction lines added.

The Pool

The pool (Fig. 3) has steps leading down into the water on three sites. There are ducks on the water, but the steps imply that one could enter the pool,perhaps for swimming.

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Fig. 3. Detail of Vrancx, Elegant Company, showing pool, garden, courtyard and landscape.

The Trellis Herms

Although difficult to see, it is clear that the ends of this trellised archway are terminated with grotesque herms in what is presuably blackened wood (Fig. 4). They are highly elongated with big bellies and possibly male genitalia (or is the right hand one female?), with some drapery above the shaft. The heads are indistinct and possibly grotesque.

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Fig. 4. Herms on central trellis arch.

These seem to be derived from a source like plate 29 of Vredeman de Vries’ Hortorum Viridiariumque, Antwerp, 1583, plate 29 (Fig. 4a).

Fig. 4a. Vredeman de Vries, Hortorum Viridiariumque, Antwerp, 1583, plate 29.

The Rusticated Gateway

The rusticated gateway is seen through the trelis arch a nd is set in the wall of the final courtyard (Fig. 5).

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Fig. 5. Courtyard with rusticated gateway.

It is a fairly standard Mannerist gateway with banded columns, stepped voussoirs, an oval shield over the keystone, a split pediment and transitional volutes (Fig. 6).

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Fig. 5. Rusticated gateway.

[1] Sebastian Vrancx (Antwerp, 1573 – Antwerp, 1647), An Elegant Company Dining Outdoors, c. 1610–1620. Oil on oak. 91 × 126 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Inv. 58.27. Image from the Museum website.

This entry was posted in All Posts, Architectural paintings, Architecture, Art, Baroque architecture, Baroque Gardens, Fabriques, Garden History, Uncategorized, Villas. Bookmark the permalink.

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