Giovannino de’ Grassi and his animal notebook
Giovannino de’ Grassi (ca. 1350-1398) was a Milanese artist mostly known as the Duomo in Milan’s master builder and sculptor, as well as for the extraordinary illuminations in Gian Galeazzo Visconti’s “Offiziolo” (or “Libro d’Ore”). He likely composed the “Animal studies from a notebook” (“Taccuino di disegni”) between 1389 and 1398, collecting his drawings of animals (as well as two alphabets and human figures in courtly activities) in a single work.
The “Taccuino” includes tempera, pen, and watercolor drawings, and is currently kept in Bergamo’s “Angelo Mai” Civic Library.
Art historian Liana Castelfranchi Vegas has noted that Giovannino’s “rare painting levity shines even in the pages of the ‘Taccuino di disegni’ attributed to him […], which gathers tables that were probably destined to be models: some of them, such as the deer […], show an unprecedented refinement in their execution, a ‘pointillist’ levity and extraordinary naturalistic liveliness at the same time” (L. C. Vegas-A. Conti, “L’arte medioevale in Italia e nell’Occidente europeo”, Jaca Book, Milan 1993).