Stefano della Bella

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Stefano Della Bella
Dolci Stefano Della Bella.jpg
Portrait by Carlo Dolci
Born 18 May 1610
Florence, Italy
Died 12 July 1664
Florence, Italy
Nationality Italian
Known for Engraver
Movement Baroque

Stefano della Bella (18 May 1610 – 12 July 1664) was an Italian draughtsman and printmaker known for etchings of a great variety of subjects, including military and court scenes, landscapes, and lively genre scenes. He left 1052 prints, and several thousand drawings, but only one known painting.[1] He was born and died in Florence, Italy.


Polish horseman etching

He was born at Florence to a family of artists, and was apprenticed to a goldsmith, but became an engraver working briefly under Orazio Vanni and then Cesare Dandini.[2] He studied etching under Remigio Cantagallina, who had also been the instructor of Jacques Callot, who had lived in Florence 1612-1621, and his early prints are very similar to those of Callot. The patronage of the Medicis enabled della Bella to live and study for six years in Rome, living in the Medici palace, and producing vedute and drawings of antiquities as well as crowded images of public occasions in a series of sketchbooks, many of which were later turned into prints. He also made trips to Florence to record and assist the court festivities of the Medici. In this period his style developed from Mannerist to Baroque.[3]

Work in Rome[edit]

In Rome, he created a then admired print of the cavalcade celebrating the entry of the Polish ambassador into Rome in 1633. He also created a number of prints of views of Rome. In 1639 he went to Paris, introduced by the Tuscan ambassador, Alessandro del Nero, and where he lived until 1650, adapting his style to French taste, as in his series updating the Northern theme of the taking by Death of various individuals. He was also influenced by Rembrandt and other Dutch printmakers, and made trips to Holland and North Africa.[4]

Entry of the Polish Ambassador to Rome, etching

Paris and the return to Florence[edit]

The majority of his prints date from the years in Paris; he had arrived four years after the death of Callot, and was already known to important French publishers. In 1641 Cardinal Richelieu sent him to Arras to make drawings for prints of the siege and taking of that town by the royal army, and in 1644 Cardinal Mazarin commissioned four sets of educational playing cards for the young Louis XIV. His ornament prints were very innovative, seeming to look forward to the Rococo.[5]

French anti-Italian feeling during the Fronde, and the death of Mazarin probably forced his return to Florence, where he obtained a pension from the grand duke, whose son, Cosimo III de Medici, he instructed in drawing. He continued to send plates to Paris publishers. He is known to have illustrated some discoveries for Galileo, and depicted Hansken the famous elephant, when dead. In his final years he produced a number of prints experimenting with tonal effects, though these were little known at the time; he had long made much use of wash in his drawings, and was now attempting with considerable success to achieve similar effects in etching, though only a few good impressions could be taken from the plate.[6] In 1661 he appears to have suffered a stroke, after which he produced little work.

Antonio Francesco Lucini was one of his pupils in Florence.


  1. ^ Reed, 234; Massar
  2. ^ Massar
  3. ^ Massar; Reed, 234-6
  4. ^ Reed, 234
  5. ^ Massar
  6. ^ Reed, 242; Massar


  • Massar, Phyllis Dearborn. Bella, Stefano della. In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, subscription required (accessed November 22, 2010).
  • Reed, Sue Welsh & Wallace, Richard (eds), Italian Etchers of the Renaissance and Baroque, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1989, ISBN 0-87846-306-2 or 304-4 (pb)

External links[edit]