Saturday, 25 February 2017
1502 woodcut by the Late Master of the Grüninger Workshop
Late Master of the Grüninger Workshop (fl. 1502)
(Recto) “Winged Fama” (aka rumour), illustration to Book 4 of Virgil’s “Aeneid.”
Double sided woodcut leaf from “Vergilius Maro, Publius” (70-19 B.C.). Opera. Edited by Sebastian Brant, printed by Johannes Grüninger, Strassburg, 1502
According to information offered by Christie’s regarding the book from which this leaf has been extracted:
“FIRST ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF VIRGIL. One of the great German woodcut books of the Renaissance, and the masterpiece of the artist known as the Late Master of the Grüninger Workshop. Sebastian Brant was commissioned by the publisher to edit the work and based his commentary on that of Cristoforo Landino, adding several poems not in earlier editions of Virgil.” (http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/vergilius-maro-publius-70-19-bc-opera-edited-5662862-details.aspx)
Woodcut printed leaf (verso and recto) on laid paper.
Size: (leaf) 20.5 x 19.5 cm
Adams V-457; Brunet VI:1277; Muther 537; P. Kristeller, Die Strassburger Buchillustration (1888), pp.32-46, no. 99. Fact and Fantasy 12.
Condition: marvellous crisp, richly inked and well-printed impression(s) with faded traces of marginalia in brown ink by an old hand. The sheet has light staining and there is a tear on the right side (recto) that has been closed with a fine sliver of the original paper.
I am selling this incredibly rare leaf from one of the most important woodcut book of the early German Renaissance for AU$345 in total (currently US$264.78/EUR250.85/GBP212.31 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this incredibly powerful print of winged Fama/Rumour, please contact me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This leaf has been sold
Rather than addressing both sides of this incredibly rare leaf from one of the greatest woodcut books from the Renaissance (see my earlier reference from Christies), I have decided to focus solely on the arresting image of the winged nymph Fama (aka Romour).
From what I understand about Fama (with the help of Michael Paschalis’  “Virgil's Aeneid: Semantic Relations and Proper Names”) this nymph is a problem child. Like all bearers of rumours, after consulting with King Jarbas about Dido and Aeneas (to quote Paschalis) she “”fires’ Jarbas with bitterness and indignation which is vented in a prayer to Jupiter” (p. 155). Of course, Fama does not stop upon exciting (i.e. "firing up") the King and on hearing his prayer in which the King questions Jupiter whether the god “sees” the disgrace of Dido and Aeneas and whether he intends to hurl thunderbolts at them (amongst many more items that he was brooding about) she spreads what she has heard “throughout Italy” (ibid).
In case some of the details in this riveting image are missed, note Fama’s multiple ears, the eyes on her waist and the cloven hooves with wings attached. I also wish to draw attention to the large size of these hoof-wings. Usually artists reduce the size of foot-wings on celestial beings, such as the wing-footed god Mercury, for the sake of pictorial elegance. This is clearly not the case here as these hoof-wings look like they might actually function in keeping Fama airborne when needed. A few other details that catch my eye is the exploding fortress tower as a result of fire extending from her hand on the right side of the composition. What I find fascinating about this treatment of the explosion is that it is so similar to the treatment of the grass clumps that also look like explosions in the foreground.