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Bernardino Passari

(ca. 1540 Ancona – ca. 1590 Rome)

Saint Anthony Discovers the Body of Saint Paul the Hermit Being Borne by Angels. Engraving. 40.5 x 26.8 cm. 1582. B. XVII, 38, 75 I (of II). Watermark: Pilgrim in circle (Woodward 4, Rome, 1565).

There are few documented facts in the biography of Bernardino Passari, who in the past was often confused with Bartolomeo Passarotti. Although Christoph Plantin published a set of his engraved illustrations for Laurenzio Gambara’s “Rerum Sacrarum Liber” in Antwerp in 1577, the artist was evidently working that same year as an engraver in Rome, as is verified by the address of his earliest known print (Bartsch 73). A document from the year 1583 mentions Passari as a “romanus pictor”.

Our engraving shows the discovery of the body of Saint Paul the Hermit, known as the “father of the hermit life”, who had retired to a cave in the Theban desert and died at the grand old age of 113. While Saint Anthony pays his respects to the dead man borne by the angels, two lions are digging his grave in the background. Up in the sky two angels depart heavenwards with the soul of the deceased. The scene is set in a curiously constructed and artificiallooking landscape. Also striking is the slim, youthful appearance of the body of the saint, who emanates a mannerist elegance and grace and whose pose is remotely reminiscent of Parmigianino’s Entombment (Bartsch 46).

A very fine, tonal and harmonious early impression, with narrow margins around the borderline, before the address of Petri de Nobilibus. Compare the impression in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris with the second address in the lower text margin, The Illustrated Bartsch, 34 (17), p. 112. Slight aging and handling, otherwise in perfect condition. From the collections of J. Grünberg, Vienna (Lugt 1463) and Paul Davidsohn (Lugt 654).

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