Sunday, 22 July 2018

Antonio Tempesta’s etching, “The Romans Defeated by the Dutch Troops at Bonna”, 1611


Antonio Tempesta (1555?–1630)

“The Romans Defeated by the Dutch Troops at Bonna” (the Met title) or “Dutch Soldiers Return from Germany to Aid Civilis Defeat the Romans” (TIB title), 1611, possibly after Otto van Veen (1556–1629) (according to the Rijksmuseum [see RP-P-OB-37,681), plate 9 from the series of 37 plates (including the frontispiece/titlepage), “The War of the Romans against the Batavians” (Romanorvm et Batavorvm societas), published in the first edition (1612) with Latin letterpress text verso.

Etching on laid paper trimmed with thread margins around the image borderline and backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 16.4 x 21.2 cm
Lettered below the image borderline: (in four lines of Dutch text at left): “Het Holladtsch cryghsvolck dat in Duytschlandt was, comt af van / Civilis te voren verwillight zynde. De Romeynen te Bon ligghende / vallen sterck wt om dat te Beletten, maer van de Hollan- / ders gheslaghen; dewelcke voort treckende voeghen hen by Civilis.”; (center within a circle) “9”; (in four lines of Latin text at right) “Batavorum cohortes in Italiam pergentes a Civili / occulte domum revocantur: Romani Bonnam insi- / dentes iter impedire conati erumpunt, sed a / Batavis funduntur.”
Latin text on verso from Tacitus’ “Histories”, IV, 19–29,
State i (of iii) Note: TIB lists this impression as “SI II” and the impressions without the Latin text verso as “SI I2”. In the third state the plate is “heavily retouched” and with “PLANCHE IX. / PASSAGE DE BONN FORCÉ.” (among other changes). There is also a copy in the same direction executed by Joseph Mulder and inscribed, “I. Mulder fecit.”

TIB 35 (17).568 S1 (145) (Sebastian Buffa [ed.] 1984, “The Illustrated Bartsch: Antonio Tempesta: Italian Masters of the Sixteenth Century”, vol. 35, Abaris Books, New York, p. 297); Bartsch XVII.145.568 i/ii (Adam von Bartsch 1803, “Le Peintre graveur,” Vienna); Nagler XVIII.179.560-.595 (G K Nagler 1835–52, “Neus allgemeines Künstler-Lexicon” [22 vols.]).

See also the description of this print at the Rijksmuseum:
and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Condition: superb early impression from the first state that is richly inked, crisp and well-printed with Latin letterpress text from verso faintly visible recto (as is appropriate and expected for a print from this early edition). The sheet is in near faultless condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing), trimmed to the image borderline and backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this strong lifetime impression of this magnificent etching for the total cost of AU$195 (currently US$144.83/EUR123.44/GBP110.36 at the time of posting this) 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 near pristine etching executed when Rembrandt was only a five year old boy, 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


In earlier posts I have discussed quite a few of Tempesta’s other etchings from the same thirty-seven plate series (“The War of the Romans against the Batavians” [Romanorvm et Batavorvm societas]), but I have not focused attention on the letterpress text printed verso. Mindful of this shortfall, the time has come to address the text written by the great Roman historian (and senator), Tacitus (Publius/Gaius Cornelius Tacitus) (c56–c120 AD), shown on the back of this print.

Let me begin by admitting that in my schoolboy days I was not aware that I was a nerd. Now that I can look back on early interests without cringing, I can comfortably report that at the time I was fascinated by the early Roman writers, Tacitus and Suetonius. The reason, in part, was simply because the stories were rich in shocking behaviour (particularly Suetonius’ accounts of debauchery). I admit, however, that I also held a deep fascination for my Ancient History teacher who had a marvellous Scottish accent—oh such a beautiful a sound!—and the best collection of furry coats.

This early interest in Tacitus is now coming back to me as a reward for reading (in translation of course) what happened in ancient Roman times. What is shown here (from Tacitus’ “Histories”, IV, 19–29) is as Eckhard Leuschner (2007) explains:
“…an eruption of Roman troops from the gates of Bonna (Bonn) in an unsuccessful attempt to detain the Batavian troops which, although officially still in the service of the Romans, have been secretly order to return home by Civilis.” (TIB, vol., 35, Part 2, Commentary, p. 119).

My understanding of the portrayed scene, based on the Latin text lettered on the plate below the image (recto), is that the Batavian cohorts “from the Civil War in Italy” were near the gates of the city of Bonna when the Romans “burst out” but they were routed by the “Dutch” (i.e. the Batavians).







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