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Wednesday 24 May 2017

Diana Scultori’s engraving, “Horatius Cocles Escaping into the River after Holding off the Enemy”, 1575–88

Diana Scultori (aka Diana Ghisi; Diana Mantovana) (1536–88)
“Horatius Cocles Escaping into the River after Holding off the Enemy”, 1575–88 (the attribution of these dates is based on the time when Scultori first began to sign her name “Diana”), after Giulio Romano’s (1499–1546) design for the Sala di Attilio Regolo, Casino della Grotta, Palazzo Te, Mantua. (See Paolo Bellini 1991, ‘L'opera incisa Adamo e Diana Scultori”, Vicenza, 1991, pp. 163-5.)

Engraving on laid paper trimmed along the platemark, first state (lifetime) impression.
Size: (sheet) 24.6 x 27.3 cm; (image borderline) 24.3 x 27 cm
Lettered with the artist’s name on the pillar of the bridge at lower left: “DIANA”
State i (of ii) before the addition of publisher’s address at lower right.

TIB 31 (15). 34 (447) (Walter L Strauss, Suzanne Boorsch & John Spike [Eds.] 1986, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 31, Abaris Books, New York, p. 274); Bartsch XV.447.34; Bellini 1991 2.I

Condition: near faultless lifetime impression trimmed along the plate mark. There are many notations by previous collectors (verso).

I am selling this exceptionally rare print by one of the historically significant women printmakers from the Renaissance (arguably the first person to copyright the design for a cap … admittedly a night cap) for AU$456 (currently US$340.96/EUR304.61/GBP265.37 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this lifetime impression in pristine condition of major print from the Renaissance era executed by one of the very few famous women printmakers of the time (and the first to have permission/”privilege” to sell her work under her own name), please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

If I were to compile a list of women artists from the Renaissance era, the name, Diana Scultori, would be at the top.

Arguably, Scultori’s most significant achievement is that she was the FIRST woman to be permitted to sell her work using her own name. Today the idea that artists sought permission to sell their work may seem odd. At the time, however, artists applied to the papal bureaucracy for such a “privilege” (i.e. copyright protection) to ensure that their designs were legally authorised and that other artists were not allowed to copy their work. Indeed, the penalty for any transgression of an artist’s privilege was harsh: “excommunication, a fine of 50 gold ducats, and seizure of all the contraband material” (see Evelyn Lincoln 2000, “The Invention of the Italian Printmaker”, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 123-4).

In terms of Scultori’s business acumen, Diana was very shrewd, in the sense that she changed her name according to who was in power and would benefit her career. For example, the name “Diana Ghisi” was adopted by Diana as the surname, “Ghisi”, linked her to the famous Mantuan engraver, Giorgio Ghisi—a misrepresentation of name that even the august Bartsch catalogue raisonné has failed to correct. Indeed, there are no documents from Diana’s lifetime where she ever uses her true surname, as the name “Scultori” was not useful in the marketplace.

As another example of shrewd business practices, Dana choice of portrayed subject matter and the inscribed dedications on some of her plates were clearly designed to advance her career. For instance, her first published engraving,Volute of a Composite Capital”, 1576, features not only a subject that would have appealed to her patron— Lord Claudio Gonzaga, the chief supervisor of the Mantuan court— because he wrote a book on the topic and that the print was larger than any other engraving of such a subject at the time, but the tone of the inscription is so unambiguously ingratiating:

“To the most illustrious Lord Claudio Gonzaga, Diana Mantuana. It is fitting that this labour of mine, having come to life under the rule of your most excellent house, receives new life under your lordship’s name, because now it enters the world favoured by you with the most ample privilege of the sanctity of Our Lord. Accept this then with a kind heart, and with it the service of my house in Rome …”

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