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Tuesday 18 July 2017

Heinrich Aldegrever’s engraving, “Mutius Scaevola” (aka Mucius Scaevola), 1530

Heinrich Aldegrever (1501/2–55/61)
(Bartsch title) “Mutius Scaevola” (Mutius Scévola), 1530

Engraving on fine laid paper.
Size: (sheet) 15.5 x 11 cm; (plate) 14.7 x 10.3 cm
Signed with monogram and dated on a tablet at lower right.

New Hollstein (German) 69 (Aldegrever) (Hollstein, F W H, “The New Hollstein: German engravings, etchings and woodcuts 1400-1700”, Amsterdam, 1996); Bartsch VIII.387.69 (Bartsch, Adam, Le Peintre graveur, 21 vols, Vienna, 1803); Bartsch 16.69 (387) (1980, p. 176).

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Mucius Scaevola; standing in frontal view at left, about to place his hand on the fire at right; Porsenna crowned and holding a sword, sitting on a throne at right; a female figure seated on the ground at far left; all three figures nude. 1530” (

Condition: Excellent impression with small margins. Nevertheless, there are minor abrasions that have been professionally restored to be virtually invisible. Both of the upper corners in the margins have very small replenished losses.

I am selling this marvellous impression of the utmost rarity by one of the most famous of the old master printmakers who followed in the tradition of Durer (whose monogram design Aldegrever has appropriated) and the Nuremberg “Little Masters” (vis. the Beham brothers and Georg Pencz) for AU$620 (currently US$492.10/EUR426.13/GBP377.52 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this superb engraving from the Renaissance era, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

For those who may be unfamiliar with the story about Gaius Mucius Scaevola (aka Mutius Scaevola)—and I need to point out at that the story might be more than just a story and could be based on embroidered facts—he was a Roman youth authorised by the Roman Senate to assassinate the Etruscan king, Lars Porsena, who had laid siege on Rome. Sadly for Mucius, he killed the wrong person and when captured he boldly declared to King Lars Porsena that he was only the first of three hundred other Roman volunteers aiming to kill Porsena. To show how brave and single-minded Romans were, Mucius placed his right hand into a sacrificial fire set near the king as proof of his strength-of-mind to overcome pain. This demonstration of control and bravery so impressed the king that he allowed Mucius to leave the Etruscan camp and to make peace with Rome.

My favourite quip that the king was supposed to have said to Mucius in dismissing him to return to Rome was: “Go back, since you do more harm to yourself than me" (see Livy's “History of Rome/Ab Urbe Condita”).

Regarding Aldegrever’s version of this scene, I have a problem. From my understanding of the story, the hand that was burnt should be his right hand but it is Mucius’ left hand that is closest to the fire. This may seem a rather trivial detail, but the name “Scaevola” by which Mucius is now known means literally “left-handed" as his left hand became his functioning hand after the right one was burnt. No doubt I may have my facts all mixed up but I find details like this interesting to ponder given the history of similar hand-burning stories that followed Mucius’ ordeal (e.g. T. E. Lawrence episode with a match, G. Gordon Liddy’s burnt hand with a lighter and the character, Travis Bickle's, act of scorching his arm in Martin Scorsese's “Taxi Driver”).

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