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Carlo Lasinio

(Treviso 1759 – Pisa 1838)

Caricatures after Leonardo da Vinci. Eleven etchings, painted in water colours. Each circa 21.1 x 26.5 cm. Not in Cassinelli, Nagler or Le Blanc. Watermark: Cartouche.

While this amusing series of caricature portraits was designed to entertain contemporary viewers, it was also meant as a grave warning to them not to succumb to the vices of foolishness and vanity. The pictures are a modified version of the famous drawings of grotesque heads by Leonardo da Vinci now in the collection of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. Whereas Leonardo focuses with almost scientific precision on the deformations of the human physiognomy and his bizarre creations appear frighteningly realistic, Lasinio tends to concentrate in a moralising tone on the more burlesque aspects of their features. The mockingly humorous four-line verses beneath the pictures rebuke people for being innately blind to their physical degeneration and for their tendency to feign youth by dressing in conspicuous fashion. The couples looking at each other with grim and joyless expressions on their faces are portrayed as representatives of a dazzled and deluded mankind. 

The author of the series, the draughtsman and etcher Carlo Lasinio, was a professor of engraving at the Academy of Florence for more than half a century (1779–1835) and also curator of the Camposanto in Pisa. He was a pupil and friend of Édouard Gautier-Dagoty and, like him, experimented with methods of colour printing. This eminently rare series of caricatures is not recorded in any of the relevant catalogues of Lasinio’s printed oeuvre. It is assumed that it originally consisted of twelve prints and so is all but complete here. Another specimen of the set comprising just ten etchings is kept in the collection of Achille Bertarelli in Milan. The perfectly preserved original colouring gives the images great vitality. Very fine impressions with the full margins, some old traces of stitching in the left-hand margin. Minor ageing and minimal traces of handling, some sheets slightly mildewed and a little discoloured with minor blemishes in the margins, otherwise in excellent condition. Literature: Leonardo e l’incisione. Stampe derivate da Leonardo e Bramante dal XV al XIX secolo, exh. cat., published by C. Alberici, Milan 1984, pp. 139–140, nos. 202–204.

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