JACOPO DE’ BARBARI (CIRCA 1460/70-1516)
JACOPO DE’ BARBARI (CIRCA 1460/70-1516)

Triton and Nereid

Details
JACOPO DE’ BARBARI (CIRCA 1460/70-1516)
Triton and Nereid
engraving, circa 1495-1516, on laid paper, watermark High Crown (similar to Briquet 4922, Southern Germany, circa 1502-25), a very fine impression of this extremely rare engraving, printing with great clarity and contrast and tiny touches of burr on the caduceus and elsewhere, trimmed on the platemark at right and inside the platemark but outside the subject elsewhere, in very good condition
Sheet 128 x 192 mm.
Provenance
Giancarlo Beltrame (1925-2011), Vicenza; then by descent to the present owners.
Literature
Bartsch VII. 527. 24; Hind 21
Sale room notice
Please note that there is small repair at the lower left sheet edge.

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Lot Essay

The Italian painter and engraver pejoratively known by his countrymen as Jacopo de’ Barbari, literally Jacob of the Barbarians, due to his decision to live and work in Germany and the Netherlands, was a formative influence on the early development of Albrecht Dürer. In a letter of 1506 Dürer credits Jacopo with encouraging his nascent interest in human proportions: ‘I find no one who has written anything about how to make a canon of human proportions except for a man named Jacobus, born in Venice and a charming painter. He showed me a man and woman which he had made according to measure, so that I would now rather see what he meant than behold a new kingdom’ (H. Rupprich, Dürer - Schriftlicher Nachlass, 1956-69, quoted in: Early Italian Engravings from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, p. 345). In 1500 de’ Barbari received a commission as a portraitist and miniature painter in Nuremberg from Emperor Maximilian, and it is almost certain that the two artists became acquainted at this time. Although the influence of de’ Barbari on Dürer is apparent in a work such as Apollo and Diana (B. 68) of circa 1503-04, which borrows heavily from Jacopo’s rendering of the same subject, it has been suggested that the Venetian artist may have in turn adapted some of Dürer’s innovations for his own compositions. The present engraving Triton and Nereid, while owing much to Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods (B. 16 & 17), circa 1485-1488, also shares many similarities with Dürer’s Seamonster of around 1498. Particularly in the characterisation of the merman or Triton, with the shaggy moustache and beard, scaled body, and spotted tail, the two figures are remarkably similar. As none of Jacopo’s prints are dated, a firm chronology is difficult to establish and whether or not he drew inspiration from the younger artist can only be conjectured. The explicit eroticism of Triton and Nereid is, however, of a very different sensibility to the more restrained sensuality of Dürer’s The Seamonster.  What we know for certain is that he created this print following his arrival in Germany, since the earliest impressions such as the present one are on German paper.

Hind records a total of nine impressions in public collections of this exquisite erotic print: in London, Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg, Paris (2), Parma and Vienna. To our knowledge, none has been offered at auction within the last thirty years.

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