Friday, 26 May 2017
Three engravings by Master of the Die of putti playing, 1530–60
Master of the Die (fl.1522-33) (purported by the “Benezit Dictionary of Artists”  to be Bernardo Daddi [fl.c.1530–60], but the BM also argues that the artist may be Tommaso Vincidor [1493–1536])
Three engraving from the series of four prints published by Antoine Lafréry (c.1512–77). The curator of the BM advises that the series were “taken from part of a set of eight tapestries of games of putti woven for Leo X in Flanders in 1521 under the supervision of Tommaso Vincidor …The designs have been ascribed to Giovanni da Udine, using ideas from Raphael.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1468125&partId=1&searchText=1874,0808.272&page=1)
“Two Putti … Striking Another Who is Squeezing a Child” (Bartisch title) 1530–60, engraving on heavy laid paper. Size: (sheet) 23.5 x 33.0 cm; (plate) 21.2 x 28.5 cm; (image borderline) 20.5 x 28 cm. State iii (of iii) with the address of Lafrery and the inscription, “Tapezzerie del Papa”. Signed with monogram at lower left corner. Lettered at lower edge: (left) “RAPHA . VR . IN”; (centre) “Tapezzerie del Papa”; (right) “ANT LAFRERII . FORMIS”. TIB 29 . 35-II[I] ) (Suzanne Boorsch [Ed.] 1982, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 29, Abaris Books, New York, p. 192). The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Two putti holding a bow and an arrow standing behind an elaborate garland striking another putto who is squeezing a child in front of the garland, three birds fly above, from a series of four” (BM number: V,6.55)
“Three Putti Playing with an Ostrich” (Bartisch title) 1530–60, engraving on heavy laid paper. Size: (sheet) 23.3 x 34 cm; (plate) 21.1 x 28.5 cm; (image borderline) 18.4 x 28 cm. State iii (of iii) with the address of Lafrery and the inscription, “Tapezzerie del Papa”. Signed with monogram at lower left corner. Lettered at lower edge: (left) “RAPHA . VR . IN Tapezzerie del Papa”; (right) “ANT . LAFRERII . FORMIS” TIB 29 . 33-II[I] ) The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Three putti before a large garland, the one in the middle rides an ostrich, the one at the right pull a feather from its tail and one below crouches holding its leg, from a series of four” (BM number: V,6.54)
“Putti Playing” (Bartisch title) 1530–60, engraving on heavy laid paper. Size: (sheet) 23 x 34.5 cm; (plate) 18.8 x 28.5 cm; (image borderline) 20.8 x 28 cm. State iii (of iii). Signed with monogram at the feet of the putti second from the right. Lettered at lower edge: (left) “Tapezzerie del Papa”. TIB 29 . 30- [III] ) The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Eight putti, the one in the middle holds an apple to his eye, one at the right goes to throw and arrow and in the lower left two make a garland” (BM number: 1875,0710.141)
Condition: crisp and well-printed impressions with margins as published. The sheets are in remarkably good condition for their age, but there are small printer’s creases on the upper and lower plates.
I am selling this set of three exceptionally rare engravings by the 16th century printmaker whose work is signed with a symbol of a dice—hence the artist’s descriptive title, “Master of the Die”—for AU$520 each, totalling AU$1560 (currently US$1161.40/EUR1038.18/GBP907.92 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this set of romantic engravings from the Renaissance era created only a few decades after the death of Raphael upon whose designs they are based, please contact me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
These prints have been sold
I am not an authority on the history of tapestry, but as these prints are based on tapestry designs I thought that a look at Thomas P Campbell’s (Ed.) (2008) “Tapestry in the Baroque” would be advisable so that I could learn about the use of putti in 16th century tapestries and whether any mention was made specifically about these prints.
The first thing that I realised is the distinction made between images of little boys running amuck and little boys with tiny wings running amuck. They are definitely not the same: their motivations may be equally mischievous but perceived differently. For instance, Guilio Romano’s designs showing naked boys picking fruit and playing among trees I understand are “poetic” while the putti—naked boys with wings—are “sensuous.” Although I am not completely certain what attributes mark naked boys as being “poetic”, the description of one cheeky boy “in a tree urinating” may hint at what fits into this category. With regard to putti, I was more successful in finding insights into the Renaissance mindset of Leo X about naked winged boys, after all it was this pope who originally commissioned Raphael’s designs on which these prints are based.
At the time that Raphael was creating these designs for Leo X, the Church was facing a momentous crisis: the Protestant Reformation. I understand that Leo X saw his role as akin to being a careful helmsman on a ship—the ship being the Church—navigating his “vessel” to safety. Indeed, such an analogy was crystallised by Giovanni da Udine as the “ship of Venus, with nymphs and Cupids aboard, sailing on quiet waters, escorted by Neptune” (Campbell 2008, p. 404). Essentially, after reflecting on the use of putti I now realise that they are more than token symbols of mythological “love.” These naked winged boys may be visual representations of Leo X’s way of looking at his world; a world of mischievous intrigues that he was steering through as God’s helmsman.