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Wednesday 1 March 2017

Master of the Die’s engraving, “Daphne Embracing Her Father, the River-God Peneus”, c 1530

Master of the Die (fl. 1522-33) (purported by the “Benezit Dictionary of Artists” [2005] to be Bernardo Daddi [fl. c 1530–60])

“Daphne Embracing Her Father, the River-God Peneus”, c 1530, after Baldassare Peruzzi (1481– 1536) (note: the plate is inscribed incorrectly as being after Giulio Romano), from the series of four plates, “The story of Apollo and Daphne”, published by Philippe Thomassin (1562–1622)

Engraving on laid paper with full margins as published
Size: (sheet) 34.5 x 26.5 cm; (plate) 25.3 x 18.5 cm; (image borderline including text box) 24.8 x 18.1 cm
The artist’s monogram—a die/dice— is shown within the image borderline towards the lower right corner.
Lettered below the image borderline: (at centre) “Julius Romanus inventor / Phts Thom. exc. Rome”; numbered (right) “2”; and with eight lines of text in two columns, 'Ecco l'fiume ... / dove tu nuoi'.
State ii (of ii?) (Note: I am attributing this impression as a second state as the print shows additional linework and lettered publisher’s details which are not featured in the first state impression held by the BM and shown in TIB, vol. 29, p. 177.)
Bartsch XV.197.20; TIB 29 (15) 20-II (197)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print in its first state before the plate was lettered with Philippe Thomassin as the publisher and with the incorrect attribution of Giulio Romano as the designer:
“Daphne in the mouth of a grotto embracing her father the river god Peneus who holds a cornucopia in his right hand, at the left three nymphs bring jars, from a series of four ... Engraving” (

Condition: crisp and well-printed impression with generous margins. The sheet is in remarkably good condition for its age, but there is very faint spotting and traces of yellowing at the lower left edge.

I am selling this exceptionally rare engraving by an 16th century printmaker whose work is signed with a symbol of a dice—hence the artist’s descriptive title, “Master of the Die”—for AU$360 in total (currently US$275.87/EUR261.79/GBP223.88 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this very early illustration for the mythological story of Apollo and Daphne, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

The true identity of the artist who engraved this plate and “signed” it with the monogram of a small dice/die at the lower right corner of the image is a mystery. According Emmanuel Bénézit (1854-1920) in “Benezit Dictionary of Artists” (2006), the Master of the Die IS the artist Bernardo Daddi II (aka Beatricius l'Ancien) (c.1512–70). Bénézit‘s attribution, however, is not unreservedly supported by all scholars and there are other artists who are also in contention as the artist behind the monogram. For example, Benedetto Verino and Tommaso Vincidor are proposed as alternative artists in the discussion about the conundrum faced by scholars offered by the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco (see One thing that is certain is that the Master of the Die was connected to Marcantonio Raimondi’s workshop. Indeed the artist is so connected that it may truly be Raimondi’s son: Daddi (aka Dado).

From a personal standpoint, the influence of Raimondi is very clear and is exemplified by the treatment of the less than fully rounded contour marks in the rendering of the figures shown here that I see as very similar to that of Raimondi’s early “Roman period” prints. (See the discussion about this relationship in Frederick Keppel’s exhibition catalogue (1902) “Early Italian Masters.”)

What is especially interesting for me are the stylistic refinements in this second state impression from the comparative crudity of the first state as seen in the copy held by the British Museum (see For instance, in this the second state, the monogramist has overlaid the horizontal contour lines rendering the legs of the standing figures shown in the first state with a vertical layer of marks to give an added dimension of reality to the form of the legs. Although this small revision may seem a minor, even trivial, alteration, for me it represents a major conceptual leap in the artist’s approach.

For those interested in this portrayed scene, what is illustrated is a critical moment in the mythological story about Apollo and the River-God’s daughter, Daphne. Moments before this seemingly charming view of intimate family life where Daphne embraces her father, Peneus—the river god as signified by the stream of water flowing from the urn on which he leans—Apollo has been lusting after Daphne with an uncontrollable urge arising from being shot by an arrow of passion by Eros who was cranky that Apollo had mocked his skills as a bowman/bowboy. Following this tender scene of Daphne and Peneus, her loving father turns Daphne into a lovely laurel tree to protect her virginity from Apollo’s rampant desires. (Note that in this scene Daphne’s dad is considering the option of the turning his daughter into a tree as he holds and examines a laurel frond.)

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