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Cornelis Cort

(1533 Hoorn – 1578 Rome)

Bacchus and Venus in a Chariot. Engraving. 21.9 x 29.7 cm. 1556. Bierens de Haan 154; Riggs 224; The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 52 (Supplement), 154; The New Hollstein R 36.

This very rare engraving made in 1556 is an early work issued by the Antwerp publisher, Hieronymus Cock. Cock began publishing in 1548 and in the early years witnessed a boom in the production of engravings after Italian masters. In 1550 he persuaded Giorgio Ghisi to work as an engraver for his publishing house and so the artist was active for a number of years in Antwerp. Here Ghisi reproduced engravings after masters of the Italian Renaissance, such as Raphael and Bronzino, and his masterly, technically sophisticated engraving technique came to have a lasting influence on his Flemish contempo­ra­ries. As a result Cock’s publishing house “Aux Quatre Vents” made a major contribution to the dissemination of the formal idiom of the Italian Renaissance in Flanders and the northern Netherlands.

The present bright and spirited depiction stems from the hand of an anonymous Antwerp engraver. In the past the design has been attributed to both Giulio Romano and Frans Floris, but the author has yet to be clearly identified. For a long time the engraving was regarded as an early work by Cornelis Cort, who had been an engraver for Cock since the late 1550s. The very early date of 1556 makes it unlikely that he was the author, however, and for that reason Sellink has put the work in the category of “rejected prints”. Be that as it may, the work is certainly that of an accomplished engraver. The tensely arti­cu­lated, intricate burin technique and the skilful, three-dimensional rendering of the muscular bodies reveal the in­fluence of Giorgio Ghisi’s style, although there can be no doubt that an anonymous Flemish artist was at work here. The expressly profane nature of the depiction and the classical subject matter illustrate how quickly the Antwerp engravers – including those working for Hieronymus Cock – assimilated the spirit and formal language of the Italian Renaissance.

A superb, contrasting and harmonious impression with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in mint condition.

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