Saturday, 9 June 2018

Unidentified etcher from the circle of Melchior Meier, “Apollo and Marsyas and the Judgement of Midas”, 1581–1620


Unidentified printmaker from the circle of Melchior Meier

“Apollo and Marsyas and the Judgement of Midas”, 1581–1620, copy in reverse after Melchior Meier (fl. 1572–82) after the Monogrammist MF (fl. late 16thC; see Nagler, 'Monogrammisten', IV, no.1802) and/or (as proposed by the Rijksmuseum; see http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.collect.152476) after Francesco de' Rossi (aka Francesco Salviati; Il Salviati; Francesco Rossi; Cecchino del Salviati) (1510–1563).

Etching on paper with watermark of the fleur de lys on a shield crowned (cf Briquet 7210), trimmed along the plate-mark and backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 23 x 31.4 cm; (image borderline) 22.6 x 30.9 cm
Inscribed on plate within the tablet at upper right: “1536 / (monogram) MF”.

Hollstein 7.II (Copy) (F W H Hollstein 1954, “German engravings, etchings and woodcuts c.1400-1700”, Amsterdam)
The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Apollo and Marsyas and the Judgement of Midas; reverse copy after Melchior Meier (Hollstein 7); Apollo at centre, holding a flaying knife in his left hand and the skin of Marsyas in his right hand; the flayed Marsyas hanging from a tree at right; Midas with the ears of an ass kneeling at left; satyrs and soldiers in background.”

Condition: a faultless, richly inked and superbly printed, lifetime impression trimmed along the platemark and backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. The sheet is in near pristine condition (i.e. there are no tears—at least that I can see—holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing).

I am selling this museum quality impression of the utmost rarity for AU$603 (currently US$458.52/EUR389.56/GBP342.06 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

If you are interested in purchasing this superb etching, 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


There is an element of mystery about this etching in terms of who executed it, when it was etched and who made the original design … but let me explain.

At first glance the details of the artist responsible and when it was created would seem to be clear as the plate is inscribed on the tablet featured at the upper right with the initials of the artist, “MF”—known by historians as the Monogrammist MF—capped by the date, “1536”, signifying when the artwork was executed. Sadly, all these details are misleading.

The key problem is that the Monogrammist MF was active in the late 1500s and certainly AFTER the inscribed date, “1536” (see Nagler, 'Monogrammisten', IV, no.1802). Moreover, there is a print with the same composition, but in reverse, etched in 1581 by Melchior Meier who the British Museum and the Rijksmuseum both advise made the original print (see BM no. 1925,1215.118 & Rijksmuseum no. RP-P-OB-53.362) with the curator of the BM stating that the above “problematic” print is “a reverse copy dated (impossibly) 1536” (see http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1451984&partId=1&searchText=Melchior+Meier+&page=1).

Setting aside the impossibility that the Monogrammist MF could have composed this image in 1536, the Rijksmuseum in their description of Melchior Meier’s etching in reverse offers an alternative artist as the designer: the mannerist artist, Francesco de' Rossi (1510–1563) whose dates as an active artist seem a perfect fit for the inscribed date, “1536.”

What I find even more baffling than the misleading information inscribed on the plate is that the execution of the portrayed scene is—and I stress that this is a personal view—superior to the “original” plate etched by Meier. Certainly I would agree that there is a degree of spatial ambiguity in the rendering of the kneeling figure of Midas with his big ears that is not present in the Meier’s print, but to my eyes the figures shown here almost breathe with life whereas they seem somewhat stilted in Meier’s version. I love this etching! 







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