Ulysses in Ithaca. The archery game.

Ulysses in Ithaca. The archery game by Ruggiero de Ruggieri - château de Fontainebleau - © RMN Grand Palais

Ruggiero de Ruggieri (documented in 1540 – 1596 (ca.))
1569
H. 146 cm; L. 202.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Château de Fontainebleau, F 1995.2Painting Gallery. 

This painting depicts a scene on canvas from the frescoed décor of the Ulysses Gallery in Fontainebleau, more precisely the thirty-ninth composition of the vast series of works by Primaticcio. As Ulysses has returned to Ithaca, after a journey of twenty years, he is about to find his wife Penelope, who, although so faithful, is weary of war and is finally convinced to marry the one of her many suitors who wins an extremely difficult agility test. Candidates must shoot an arrow from Ulysses’ bow through rings from Penelope’s loom, the very symbol of her loyalty to Ulysses.

In the foreground, Ulysses, in disguise, is about to win the competition. Behind him, Minerva presides over the event, while on the right, the couple’s only son, Telemachus, watches the scene. In the background, Penelope and one of her followers are returning to their apartments upstairs. Ruggiero de Ruggieri painted a series of paintings based on the Ulysses Gallery for Nicolas Legendre, Lord of Villeroy. The painter was also a caretaker at the Château de Fontainebleau, a position that made him responsible for the maintenance of the palace’s décor and collections in the absence of its occupants. This explains the precision of his copy of the fresco in the gallery, as shown by the closeness of the composition to the original, which has since been lost but is known through engraving and drawing.

Exhibitions
2005, Bologna, Palazzo di Re Enzo e del Podestà, Primaticcio (1504-1570). Un Bolognese alla corte di Francia.
2004, Paris, Louvre Museum, Italy at the French Court. Primaticcio, Master of Fontainebleau.
1998, Château de Fontainebleau, Painters For a Castle. Fifty paintings (16th – 19th century) from the collections at the Château de Fontainebleau.

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