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Tuesday 31 July 2018

Agostino Veneziano’s engraving, “The Israelites Gathering Manna”, 1520–25

Agostino Veneziano (aka Agostino dei Musi) (1490–1540; fl.1509–36)

“The Israelites Gathering Manna” (aka “La Manne”), 1520–25, published by Antonio Salamanca (1478–1562) after a lost drawing by Raphael (1483–1520) proposed by the Curator of the British Museum to be “for the fresco in the eighth arcade of the Vatican Logge now replaced by a reproduction by Pietro Santi Bartoli.”  The curator also advises: “There is a Raphael school drawing believed to be the model for the engraving now at Christ Church in Oxford (n.1817)” (see BM no. H,9.6).

Engraving on laid paper with narrow margins backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet trimmed unevenly) 30.8 x 45 cm; (plate) 29.8 x 44.5 cm
Inscribed on plate at lower edge: (centre) “.A.V.”; (right of centre) “Ant. Sal. exc.”
State ii (?) with the addition of the publisher’s name, “Ant. Sal. exc.” (Antonio Salamanca).

TIB 26 (14) 8 (10) (Konrad Oberhuber [ed.] 1978, “The Illustrated Bartsch: The Works of Marcantonio Raimondi and of His School”, vol. 26, Abaris Books, New York, p. 17).

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“The Israelites gathering manna; Moses standing at left with his arms outstretched and holding a wand in his right hand while figures around him kneel in thanks and gather manna into elaborately decorated vessels”
See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum:

Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression with little or no signs of wear to the plate. The sheet is in museum-quality condition (i.e. there are no significant tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing, but with minor signs of handling in terms of losses to corners and surface marks in the margins), backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this large, Renaissance period and near faultless engraving for AU$480 (currently US$356.67/EUR304.41/GBP271.60 at the time of posting this print) 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 engraving executed around the time that Leonardo painted his “Mona Lisa”, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

My understanding of what this biblical scene portrays is Moses—shown on the left with a wand—giving instructions from God to the Israelites that they should gather the food called “manna”—described by Wikipedia as “’a fine, flake-like thing’ like the frost on the ground” ( to sustain themselves during their travels in the desert. This description of manna as being like frost is very appropriate. After all, if manna isn’t collected early in the morning it melts with the heat of the desert sun. There is also an added necessity to consume manna within the day as it tends to spoil—“go off”—with a putrid stench and alive with maggots.

What I find truly amazing about this illustration is the very early representation of what is now called a “thought” or “speech bubble” above Moses’ head. In this area of spatial ambiguity is portrayed a heavenly forest, rich with fruit and, importantly, little of bits of manna shown at the lower trunk of the far left tree. Although I may be wrong, I assume that this heavenly forest is a graphic representation of God’s “voice” in Moses’ head as I can see radiating lines arising from his head. To give a context to this thought/speech bubble, the following verse from “Exodus” may be helpful:

“Then said the LORD unto Moses: 'Behold, I will cause to rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or not” (“Exodus”, Chapter 16, verse 4).

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