Lelio ORSI (Novellara 1511 - Novellara 1587)

Design for a Wall Decoration Sold

Pen and brown ink and grey wash, heightened with white.
Laid down on an 18th century English mount.
Inscribed (by Esdaile?) Lelio da Novellara (partially cut off) and 197-2 Udny 1803 at the bottom edge of the mount.
Inscribed T. Th and, in another hand, Thomas Thane on the back of the mount.
254 x 303 mm. (10 x 11 7/8 in.)


This highly finished drawing, while unrelated to any surviving work by the artist, is typical of Lelio Orsi’s technique as a draughtsman, both in the manner in which the highlights are applied and the distinctive facial types. It may be likened to several similar designs for wall decorations by the artist, such as a study for part of a frieze with two seated telamons in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, a similar study in the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich, and a design for a frieze with a central panel, at Christ Church in Oxford. Two drawings in the Albertina in Vienna – a study for a decorative cartouche and a study of an urn - may also be compared stylistically and thematically to the drawing here exhibited.

In these drawings for friezes and decorative motifs, Orsi may have been inspired by the mural schemes employed by Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio at Fontainebleau, which he would have known through reproductive prints by Antonio Fantuzzi and others. (The influence of the Italian artists of the Fontainebleau school is also seen in some of the surviving fragments of Orsi’s decorative fresco schemes.) The echoes of the work of such artists as Polidoro da Caravaggio, Raphael and Michelangelo in many of these drawings would suggest that they should be dated after his stay, or stays, in Rome. Many of Orsi’s drawings for friezes, mural decorations and decorative motifs may, in fact, have been related to the extensive campaign of façade frescoes in Novellara undertaken by the artist at the behest of Alfonso Gonzaga in the 1560’s, none of which survive.

Probably Nicholas Lanier, London (a variant of his mark [Lugt 2886] stamped at the lower left centre)
Robert Udny, London and Teddington, Middlesex (Lugt 2248)
His sale, London, T. Philipe and Scott, 4-10 May 1803, lot 304 (‘LELIO ORSI DETTO DA NOVALLARA…One - a rich monument, fine pen and Indian ink, heightened, and highly finished’), sold for £19
William Esdaile, Clapham Common, London (Lugt 2617)
His sale, London, Christie’s, 18 June 1840, lot 162 (‘Lelio da Novellara: An Architectural design, with Caryatides; fine’), sold together with the following lot, also by Orsi, for £2.6.0
Possibly Thomas Thane, London (a variant of his mark [Lugt 2394] inscribed on the back of the mount)
Private collection, Iceland
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 28 January 1998, lot 4
P. & D. Colnaghi, London, in 1999
Private collection, London.

Lelio ORSI

Design for a Wall Decoration


  • Name: *
  • E-mail: *
  • Phone:
  • Comment: