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Antonio Basoli

(1774 Castelguelfo – 1848 Bologna)

Raccolta / di Prospettive serie, Rustiche, e di Paesaggio / … Inventate / da Antonio Basoli … Disegnate / da Francesco Cocchi … Incise da diversi Scuolari del Professore Francesco Rosaspina dall‘Autore, e dal Disegnatore. With engraved title vignette and 102 etchings. Untrimmed copy in half-leather binding with coloured paper cover, ornamental gilt and lettering on the spine. Bologna, published by the artist, 1810. Berliner Ornamentstich­sammlung 4165; Millard IV, 15; Brunet I, 692; Ebert 1752.

Antonio Basoli is considered to be one of the most ingenious and prolific of Italian theatre painters and stage architects in the first half of the ottocento. Having undergone extensive training at the Accademia Clementina in Bologna, where he was taught amongst others by Gaetano and Mauro Gandolfi, Angelo Venturoli and Vincenzo Mazzi, Basoli was appointed a scene painter at the Teatro Taruffi in Bologna in 1793 even before he had completed his studies. He broke with the Baroque tradition of Bibiena at an early stage and embraced Neo-classicism. Basoli’s artistic activities were concentrated to an almost excessive degree on theatre painting, which explains the very large number of stage designs he produced, most of which have survived in the form of reproductive prints. In the course of his successful career Basoli was active inter alia in Triest, St. Petersburg, Rome and Milan, although Bologna remained the centre of his activities. His lengthy period as a teacher at the city’s academy (1815–1848) enabled him to exert a lasting influence on the following generation of artists.

The present extensive collection of stage designs, which provides a representative survey of Basoli’s artistic production up to 1810, supplies striking evidence of his extraordinary imagination and exuberant creative powers. The detailed dedication on the title page indicates that the anthology was designed for teaching purposes and to serve as illustrative artistic material. To transfer his stage designs to print reproductions Basoli employed
a large number of assistants, including his brother Luigi and prominent reproductive engravers such as Francesco Cocchi, Gaetano Sandri and Giulio Tomba. The individual prints bear dedications to fellow artists and teachers at the academy in Bologna, such as Francesco Rosaspina, Felice Giani and Pelagio Palagi. Perusing the anthology, one is immediately struck by the motley collection of different styles Basoli employed. This penchant for eclecticism and utopia is characteristic of the period around 1800. Readily apparent is the pervasive influence of Piranesi’s Carceri with their breathtaking imaginary spatial constructions, although this is only one of many sources of Basoli’s stylistic inspiration. In addition there are elaborate wooden constructions that reveal a profound understanding of stage architecture, fantastic landscapes with classical style ideal towns, imitations and evocations of Chinese motifs, and neo-Gothic structures. Obelisks, sphinxes and pyramids are among the numerous examples of elements that hark back to ancient Egypt, thus illustrating the enthusiasm for Egypt that arose in late 18th century Europe. The outcome is a colourful and exotic overview that inevitably fascinates the beholder. The final work in the collection is a portrait of Basoli engraved by Antonio Marchi after a painting by Lodovico Lipparini.

Excellent impressions with full margins. Minor staining and traces of dust on the title page and minor staining and ageing on the other pages, but the general impression is very good.

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