Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Luca Ciamberlano’s engravings after Polifilo Giancarli, 1628

Luca Ciamberlano (aka Ludovico Ciamberlano; Lucas de Urbino) (fl.1599–1641)
Three ornamental panels, 1628, after Odoardo Fialetti (1573–1626/1627), after the designs by Polifilo Giancarli (fl.c.1620–57), published by Giuseppe de' Rossi (1560–1639) in a series of twelve friezes (cited by Gori) of foliage with figures and monsters, “Des rinceaux dórnements et des frises …”. (See the title page for this set of friezes at the V & A:
(Note: Odoardo Fialetti’s set of prints, “Verscheyden Aerdige Morissen van Polifilo Zancarli geordineert”, are reduced in size, in reverse and published by Claes Jansz. Visscher (1587– 1652) in 1636; see, for example, the Fialetti’s copy of the lower panel held by the British Museum:

Upper panel:
“Ornamental Frieze with Winged Nudes, Putti, and Foliage”, 1628, engraving with light plate tone on fine laid paper with margins lined upon conservator’s support sheet. Size: (sheet) 20.4 x 53.5 cm; (plate) 11.7 x 45.8 cm. TIB 44 (20). 3–[6] (56) (Walter L Strauss [Ed.] 1983, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 44, p. 195)

Middle panel:
“Ornamental Frieze with Old Female Satyr on a Dolphin, and Foliage”, 1628, engraving with light plate tone on fine laid paper with margins lined upon conservator’s support sheet. Size: (sheet) 20.4 x 53.6 cm; (plate) 11.6 x 45.2 cm. TIB 44 (20). 3–[8] (56) (Walter L Strauss [Ed.] 1983, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 44, p. 197)

Lower panel:
“Ornamental Frieze with Fantastic Creatures and Foliage”, 1628, engraving with light plate tone on fine laid paper with margins lined upon conservator’s support sheet. Size: (sheet) 20.5 x 54 cm; (plate) 12.2 x 44.6 cm. TIB 44 (20). 3–[9] (56) (Walter L Strauss [Ed.] 1983, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 44, p. 198)

Condition: crisp, excellent impressions with generous margins in good condition for the age of the prints, laid onto a conservator’s support sheet of fine washi paper. There are worm holes, a centre fold as published (professionally flattened) and signs of handling. Each sheet has the plate number inscribed by an ancient hand in ink within the image borderline at the upper right corner.

I am selling this set of three extraordinary and very rare engravings for the total cost of AU$540 (currently US$403.71/EUR370.49/GBP314.77 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing these designs epitomising the spirit of the Italian Baroque age, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

These prints have been sold

Regarding the designs for this set of panels, the V & A Museum offers the following insights: “This type of ornament recalls the XVIth century mannerism style, with its anthropomorphic and metamorphic figures and animals shown amongst foliated [sic.]. Here the richness and strong rhythm of the friezes, creating lively movement, reflect Baroque tendencies of the seventeenth century.” (

Leaving aside my personal fascination about the type of mind that concocted this entwined mixture of plant and figures, I decided to focus this discussion on two very different lines of enquiry concerning these prints: How long would they have taken Ciamberlano to engrave? How much did they cost at the time (i.e. the early 17th century) to buy one?

Regarding the commitment of time necessary to engrave plates like these—and being mindful that some printmakers in the 17th century were prone to exaggerate (e.g. Baglione’s estimate that Philippe Thomassin engraved at a rate of 6163 sq. mm per day)—my understanding is that the time is close to 5000 sq. mm per day. Presuming that this rate is fairly accurate, then each of these panels would take around eleven days to engrave. Of course, the engraving process is far slower than etching, in the sense that an engraved design would take about three times as long to execute than an etching, and so an etching of the same panel might be completed in around three to four days. (For riveting insights into the time taken to create printing plates in the 17th century, see Michael Bury’s [2001], “The Print in Italy 1550–1620”, pp. 44–5.)

Regarding the cost of prints, Bury advises that Ciamberlano was paid (wholesale costs) 7 scudi per plate from 1609 to 1614. I had a bit of trouble converting the value of the scudi coin to today’s values but I did discover that a Cardinal who is second to the Pope earned 4000 scudi a year. Moreover, the cost of a permit to marry your cousin was 700 scudi. (So expensive!!!!) If one takes a loaf of bread as a point of comparison, then a loaf cost two baiocchi in the 17th century and as there are one hundred baiocchi in a scudi then a scudi is worth fifty loaves of bread (i.e. AU$250). This means that if I wanted Ciamberlano to make an engraving for me, I should expect to pay AU$1750 (currently US$1306.94/EUR1200.85/GBP1019.55). In terms of how much an individual print would cost, I understand that 1000 impressions was not uncommon from an engraved plate at the time (with ongoing refinements) and so I guess that this would make each print worth AU$1.75 before any profits were added.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me know your thoughts, advice about inaccuracies (including typos) and additional information that you would like to add to any post.