Neptune and Galatea
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white, on ochre prepared paper
270 × 210 mm. (10 ⅝ × 8 ¼ in.)
Further information:Executed in Farinati's favorite technique of pen and brown ink with brown wash on ochre prepared paper, this is a study for a painted interior decoration. It shows the paired figures of Neptune and Galatea, recognizable by their attributes, the trident and dolphin for Neptune and the scallop-shell for Galatea. The precise purpose of this drawing is not known though it was most likely made for one of Farinati's numerous decorations of houses in and around Verona from the 1550s onwards. The figures of Neptune and Galatea were probably destined for a painted niche as part of a set of pagan gods. This suggestion is supported by comparison with a drawing of Jupiter and Juno formerly on the art market (fig. XX). Here, Jupiter, the eagle at his feet, holds his thunderbolt and scepter, while a peacock accompanies Juno. Close in style and execution, in both drawings the gods are portrayed in the guise of statues each standing on their pedestal and seen from a low viewpoint, di sotto in sù. A light wash is employed to suggest the shadow cast on the surface behind them, contributing to the spatial illusion.
Several comparable representations of gods can be found in Farinati's graphic oeuvre. A similar figure of Galatea standing on a seashell appears in a drawing of the Triumph of Galatea, dated September 1586, formerly in the Michel Gaud collection in St. Tropez. While the figure of Neptune resembles that found in a sheet now in Lisbon depicting Neptune Standing in a Chariot drawn by Two Sea-Horses, with Galatea sitting at his side.
Paolo Farinati enjoyed a longer career than most of his Veronese contemporaries. Altogether, he worked in his birthplace and the surrounding area throughout six decades. But whereas Farinati's later years are well documented, thanks in particular to the survival of his Giornale (account book, 1573-1606), his early career is obscure. His first documented work is the altarpiece of St. Martin, painted in 1552 for Mantua Cathedral, which recently had been renovated from Giulio Romano's plans.
Before that, Farinati is likely to have been most active in painting façade frescoes, often of antique subjects. By mid-century, classical Roman history had gained widespread appeal as a subject for fresco decorations throughout much of Italy. But in Verona, which boasted the most extensive antique architectural remains in North Italy, such subjects enjoyed particular popularity. Sadly, the appearance of Farinati's early façade frescoes remains largely hypothetical. They have all been destroyed - like so many other façade frescoes of this period - and no reliable evidence for their reconstruction has yet been discovered.