Nicholas Bellin (of Modena)

(c. 1490—1569)

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(b Modena, c. 1490; d London, ?15 Feb 1569). Italian stuccoist, sculptor, painter and costume designer, active in France and England. He worked in France as a painter (1515–22), probably under Jean Perréal and Jean Bourdichon, then in Mantua, possibly under Giulio Romano (?1499–1546), possibly calling himself ‘da Milano’. By 1532 he was at Fontainebleau and in 1533 was engaged with Francesco Primaticcio on the stuccoes and painting of the Chambre du Roi and was one of the highest paid of his collaborators. He may also have worked on the Galerie François I. He was described in 1534 as sculpteur et faiseur de masques and in 1535 made masquerade costumes for the wedding of the Comte de Saint-Pol. He was later involved in a fraud and by August 1537 was in England, where he settled. By 1540 Bellin was employed at Whitehall Palace, probably on making stucco chimneypieces, including that in the privy chamber. The following year he and his company of six were working on the slate carvings at Nonsuch palace, a task that was still continuing in 1545. Although it is most unlikely that Bellin devised the programme of the Nonsuch decorations, he was probably responsible for the overall design and for the production of the cartoons, providing the technical knowledge and stylistic training in the production of stuccoes in the Fontainebleau manner that formed the principal decorative element on the walls of Nonsuch. He did not carry out the stuccowork himself but was responsible for the carving of the slate. He made costumes and devices for the revels in 1546, 1547, 1548 and 1553 and in 1551 may have devised the banqueting house in Hyde Park, London, for the reception of the French ambassador. He also continued to work as a painter; in 1552 he presented Edward VI (reg 1547–53) with a full-length portrait (untraced) of the French king, presumably Henry II, and he apparently provided a likeness of Edward for his funeral effigy. In 1559 he was described as ‘image graver to the Quenes majestie’, but he had also worked on the tomb of Henry VIII in Westminster Abbey, London, and later made the tomb of William Pownsett (d 1553), which still survives in the parish church of Barking, Essex. He may have had a hand in the chantry chapel of Bishop Stephen Gardiner (d 1555) and the tomb of Thomas Mason (d 1559), both in Winchester Cathedral. The chimneypiece of c. 1554 in the Star Chamber at Broughton Castle, Oxon, a stuccowork in the Fontainebleau style, must also be by him or by someone he had trained. A number of works have been attributed to Bellin, most notably a design for the decoration of an English royal apartment and an associated drawing (both Paris, Louvre, Cab. Dessins; see fig.). Also possibly by him is a drawing of a decorative scheme (Oxford, Bodleian Lib., Gough Maps 46, no. 265). His authorship of a portrait of Francis I as a Composite Deity (Paris, Bib. N.) has also been suggested.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Renaissance Art.