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Tuesday 1 November 2022

Unidentified 16th century woodcut artist, “Gladiators”, 1590

Unidentified 16th century woodcut artist from the circle of the workshop of the Plantin-Moretus Press

“Gladiators”, 1590, published in 1590 in Antwerp by the Plantin-Moretus Press as a woodcut illustration, plate 1, to Justus Lipsius’ (1547–1606) “Iusti LipsI Saturnalium sermonum libri duo, qui de gladiatoribus” (Justus Lipsius: two books of Saturnalia discourses, those concerning the gladiators.)

This is possibly from an early edition as later editions of this publication feature engravings rather than woodcuts: see

Woodcut on fine laid paper with Latin letterpress text verso, trimmed with a narrow margin around the image borderline, backed with a support sheet.

Size: (support sheet) 20.4 x 23.9 cm; (sheet) 9.2 x 15 cm; (image borderline) 8.9 x 14.3 cm.

Numbered in plate: (upper left corner) “1”.

To give an idea of the favour of the Latin text that this and the other woodcuts illustrate, the following translation from a portion of the text printed on the back of the woodcut may be helpful (my apologies for errors in my reading): “(transl.) A certain Baton, when three of the order had succeeded in slaying them on the same day, he had greatly slain him in the midst of the most powerful people. I believe that the Lactabates fantasize about this, even those who are fighting, and if one of the two is quickly killed, they become like human mold and hate delays. Others, compared to them, are given by the more recent ones, so that they may hold their eyes as soon as possible. And so you come, Lipsi/&: the battle of my feeble turn. I was quiet and kept quiet. Would you like this?” (“iis Batonem quendam, cum tribus ex ordme eodem die puguare iuffit, eumq.a poflremo interfeSlum magmfice fepeliit. Credo & Lactabatium fentire de hoc rkndrafcuntur etiam pugnantibus y mfi celeriter alter e duobiis occifus eft, tanquam humanum fanguincm fitiant y oderunt moras. alios illis compares danpofcunt recentiores, ut quampnmum oculos suos tient. Itaque ades, Lipsi/&: pugna mei fefli vice. Ego seftuabam Sc tacebam.fedcommodum fubuenit PighiusrNon imponisnobishomo argutiflime, inquit, nonfupponis. Mos hoc fuadet?”)

Condition: a well-printed impression with the verso text lightly shining through. Beyond minor grubbiness, the sheet is in a good condition and laid upon an archival support sheet of millennium quality washi paper.

I am selling this very rare woodcut of gladiators in combat for the total cost of AU$217 (currently US$139.12/EUR140.30/GBP120.91 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 small but visually arresting woodcut, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

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