FLORENCE 1612 - CALLOT, Jacques (1594-1635). Balli di Sfessania. [Nancy: 1621 or slightly later].
Oblong eighth sheets (75 x 98 mm and slightly smaller), 24 etchings including title, all in FIRST STATE, eight with full margins, nine with thread margins, seven cropped to just within the plate-mark. (Most plates slightly discolored from paste at left edge where they have been tipped into the album, minor fox marks on eight etchings.) Album bound in red morocco gilt by Holloway. Provenance: Craddock and Barnard, London, cat. 65 (1950), no. 56 (catalogue clipping, inscription), sold to Edward Croft-Murray, Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum 1954-73 (inscription).
One of Callot's finest series of etchings, showing the dances, postures, gesticulations and mock-fights of the masked and costumed popular entertainers known as Zanni. Callot first witnessed the improvisational performances of these buffoons and commedia dell' arte characters in all their violent and obscene contortions at Florence in 1612, and drew them on the spot. Punch, Scaramouch, Pantaloon, Scapino and the Captain--stock figures by then--are featured, but also more obscure, sometimes threatening, types such as Fracasso, Giurlo, Coviello, Cocodrillo, Zerbino, Cucurucu and Babeo. Their origins lie in the 16th century in Bergamo and Venice, as well as Naples. Berlin 4315; Lieure 379-402.