Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dominique Barrière’s etching, “Allegory of Good and Evil”, c.1660


Dominique Barrière (aka Dominique Barier) (c.1618–78)
“Allegory of Good and Evil”, c.1660

Etching (with some engraving) on fine laid paper lined onto a conservator’s support sheet and trimmed with thread margins.
Size: (sheet) 20.4 x 14.1 cm; (plate) 20.2 x 13.9 cm; (image borderline) 19.6 x 13.5 cm
Lettered within the image borderline: (upper edge at centre) “OMNE BONVM”; (on banner held by putti at upper left) “EX HIS ITVR AD ALTERVTRVM”: (on mountain at lower centre) “ELIGE”; (on top edge of abyss at lower centre) “OMNE MALVM”.
Lettered below the image borderline: (left) “Dominque Barriere delin. et sculp.”; (right) monogram of entwined letters: “DL[?]”
Robert-Dumesnil 6

Condition: Crisp, near faultless impression—the lower left corner is slightly shop soiled—laid onto a support sheet of fine washi paper and trimmed to thread margins.

I am selling this fascinating print with a layering of different spiritual zones, for AU$310 (currently US$231.10/EUR206.30/GBP177.32 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this exceptionally rare etching, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


Sadly, my understanding of Latin—especially when letters have evolved from the time when a “V” now means a “U”—nevertheless, thanks to Google translate and a great deal of guess work I feel as if I have deciphered the meaning of this complex image. If I am wrong I apologise but let me offer my reading of what could only be described as a thesis print.

Beginning at the top of the composition is written “OMNE BONVM” advising that “everything is good” in this heavenly cloud-laden space. Close examination of the figures in this upper zone reveals the Holy Trinity in the centre with angels and biblical luminaries (such as St John the Baptist on the right) giving their blessings.

Below this heavenly realm but still in a celestial sky punctuated with heavenly light are two putti figures holding an unravelled banner inscribed with the text: “EX HIS ITVR AD ALTERVTRVM.” To be honest, I struggled with finding a translation for these words but a meaning that may be close to the truth is that the text advises there is a choice “from one to another”—the “one” being heaven and the “other” being the abyss of hell.

Set further below the banner is the vast expanse of terra firma (solid ground). Here the temporal world of the here-and-now is beset with scenes of wars, farming, folk playing games and religious practices (such as processions and folk praying). In the centre of this melee is a mountain lettered with the single word: “ELIGE.” My understanding is that this word is like a command: Choose—choose either to rise to heaven or sink to hell.

The lowest zone in the composition is reserved for hell. This fiery abyss is signposted with the words, ““OMNE MALVM”, meaning everything bad”, which is the complement state for the heavenly state of “OMNE BONVM”—“everything is good”—displayed at the top of the composition.






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