Monday, 18 September 2017

Carel van Mallery’s engraving, “The Roman Consul Attilius Regulus Fighting a Giant African Serpent”, 1596


Carel van Mallery (aka Charles de Mallery) (1571–1635?)
“The Roman Consul Attilius Regulus Fighting a Giant African Serpent” (aka “The Dragon Hunt”), 1596 (or a little later), from the series, “Hunting Parties” (aka “Venationes Ferarum, Avium, Piscium” (transl. “With wild beasts, birds, fish”), after Jan van der Straet (aka Joannes Stradanus; Ioannes Stradanus) (1523–1605), published by Philips Galle (1537–1612).

Note: the first edition of “Venationes Ferarum, Avium, Piscium” published by Galle comprised 43 unnumbered plates all engraved by Galle with a dedication page to Cosimo de Medici. After this edition the series was expanded to 104 plates engraved by A. Collaert, J. Collaert, C. Galle I and C. de Mallery with a dedication page to the jurist Henricus van Osthoorn en Sonnevelt (see http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1619537&partId=1&people=93957&peoA=93957-2-70&page=1  and A. Baroni and M. Sellink, “Stradanus 1523-1605: Court artist of the Medici”, exh. cat. Groeningemuseum Brugge 2008–09, Turnhout, 2012, pp. 245–58, cat. nos. 32–49).

Engraving on laid paper with margins
Size: (sheet) 23.9 x 29.6 cm; (plate) 20 x 26.6 cm; (image borderline) 18.4 x 26.2 cm
Lettered within image borderline at lower edge: (left) “'Phls Galle excud.”; (right of centre) “Joan. Stradanus invent. Car. de Mallery sculp.”
Lettered below the image borderline: (left) “43”; (centre) two lines of Latin text arranged in two columns) “Attilius consul Romanus...tandem superavit.'; (right) “XV”.
State: ii (with the added numerals, “43” and “XV”; see the BM’s impression of the first state: 1901,0611.43)

New Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) 480.II (Johannes Stradanus); Baroni Vannucci 1997 693.43 (Alessandra Baroni Vannucci 1997, “Jan van der Straet, detto Giovanni Stradano, flandrus pictor et inventor”, Milan, Jandi Sapi Editori)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Plate 15, The Roman Consul Attilius Regulus Fighting a Giant African Serpent; the Consul and his army surround and attack the giant serpent, firing arrows from all directions” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1620262&partId=1&people=106252&peoA=106252-2-23&page=3)

Condition: crisp impression but with small abrasions (so small that they are almost invisible) and generous margins (approximately 1.5 cm). The sheet is in marvellous condition with only a few faint stains.

I am selling this exceptionally rare, engraving from the late 1500s for a total cost of AU$277 (currently US$221.78/EUR185.45/GBP163.86 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this ultimate fantasy from the 16th century of hunting a dragon, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold


The idea of slaying dragons is no doubt a dream mission in life for every noble knight. Certainly there is a long history of artists who have portrayed knights vanquishing them, especially the brutish dragon lanced by St George (see for example the paintings of this critter and its demise by Paolo Uccello, Vittore Carpaccio, Raphael, Edward Burne-Jones and Gustave Moreau).

What makes this version of a dragon hunt interesting for me is in part that this is not just any dragon. This is a giant African serpent/dragon—information helpfully supplied by the Latin inscription on the print. Central to my love of this dragon, however, is its forked tongue. More specifically, my eye is riveted to the tongue’s bent tip that is almost a match for the end of the arrow piecing through the dragon’s jaw from behind. Another fascinating feature captured in this representation of a dragon is the curiously ambiguous treatment of a distant tree in the shape of a spiky ball that I read as a fiery snort of dragon’s breath at the tip of its nose.

Unlike most other illustrations of chaps slaying dragons, I should also point out that this image is rare in that it is one of the few compositions where the viewer is psychologically protected from the menacing dragon’s writhing tail and gnashing jaws—I was going to write “teeth” until I realised that this dragon has teeth only on one side of its upper jaw—by a barrier of soldiers. This may seem like a somewhat minor compositional feature, but it is surprisingly very seldom employed in scenes with dragons. 








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