Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Virgil Solis’ woodcut of a water-dragon eating a nude woman under a bridge


Virgil Solis (1514–62)
“The Serpent Kills Cadmus’s Men”, 1563 (Met. III.I-49), from M Johhann Spreng’s “Metamorphoses of Ovid” [A.15.37], published in 1563.

The title page for “Metamorphoses of Ovid”, of which this print is an illustration, has a long explanatory Latin title, but the translation provided by “The Illustrated Bartsch” (1987) (Vol. 19 [Part 1], p. 471) is interesting and informative:
“The Metamorphoses of Ovid, most carefully set forth in prose outlines of the plots and in narratives and allegories in elegiac verse, and explained with the greatest care and zeal by M. Johann Spreng. With lively illustrations of the individual transformations designed by the extraordinary draftsman, Virgil Solis. 1563.”

Woodcut on laid paper trimmed to the plate edge with thread margins; printed text from the publication verso.
Size: (sheet) 6.2 x 8.2 cm
Bartsch 7.37 (320)

Condition: richly inked and well-printed crisp impression with text verso. There is an abraded area on the left edge. Also on the left side, there is a pale stain (most likely glue residue from past mounting).

I am selling this very small but graphically arresting image of a water-dragon eating a nude woman under a stone bridge for AU$98 (currently US$72.96/EUR68.05/GBP57.89 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this remarkable woodcut from 1563, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


I am a tiny bit perplexed as to why the water-dragon shown in this illustration from Spreng’s (1563) “Metamorphoses of Ovid” is eating a woman rather than a man. I thought—and I may be wrong—that Cadmus sent his male companions to fetch water from the Ismenian spring and it was his friends that became the dragon’s brunch. Of course, the figure being devoured may indeed be a man who just happens to have D-cup sized breasts and if this is the case all is well in the world of myth.

Regarding the skill involved in crafting this print, I am dumbfounded that each miniature line is created solely by leaving a fine raised section of the woodblock and cutting away the rest. If this were not a challenge in itself, there are also passages in this print—such as the angled hatched strokes representing shadows under the bridge—that have marks suggesting superficial details laid on top of a directional flow of strokes. I wonder what the social life was like for these early woodcut artists … did they have time for friends?






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