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Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert

(1519 Amsterdam – 1590 Gouda)

Haec visunter Romae... (The Statue Court of the Palazzo Valle-Capranica in Rome). Engraving. 28.7 x 41.6 cm. Cock exc. 1553. The New Hollstein (M. van Heemskerck), Vol. II, 599 (attributed). Watermark: Letter P with Crinette logo and appended quatrefoil (Briquet 8518, Antwerp 1549).

This rendering of a Renaissance collection of antiquities is of great interest not only for its artistic merit, but also for its relevance to cultural history. It shows the statue court of the palace of Cardinal Andrea della Valle (1463–1534), who originated from an influential Roman patrician family and became a powerful representative of the church, enjoying the protection of several popes and holding the important office of governor of Rome during the pontificate of Clement VII. Very much in keeping with the humanist ideals of the High Renaissance, della Valle also distinguished himself as one of the first collectors of ancient sculptures. Inspired by the gardens of classical antiquity, in which Greek sculptures and Roman replicas were displayed, and the spectacular discoveries of ancient sculptures in Rome in the early 16th century, the first collections of classical sculpture were founded in this period. The statue court of the Palazzo Valle-Capranica, specially designed by Lorenzetto Lotti for this purpose, was distinguished by its systematic presentation of the sculptures and marked the first step towards the development of the modern museum. Vasari knew the collection from his own observation and described the loggia as a hortus pensilis, or hanging garden, being richly planted and featuring an aviary. The severely symmetrical arrangement and the careful grouping of individual sculptures and reliefs based on aesthetic considerations became standard for later collections of antiquities.

The present engraving is most likely based on a drawing by Maarten van Heemskerck, which the artist executed in situ between 1532 and 1536. Stylistically the print is very closely related to an engraving by Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert, also dated 1553 and showing the statue court of the Casa Sassi in Rome. In view of the corresponding subject and the close similarity of technique it may be assumed that our print was also done by Coornhert. The engraving was edited by Aux quatre Vents, Hieronymus Cock’s print workshop in Antwerp, and dates from the early days of his publishing activity. The most unusual and novel subject of an antique collection is likely to have been very popular in the humanist circles of the time.

The print is of extreme rarity. Hollstein records only two impressions (Berlin, lost in World War II; Escorial). Another impression is kept in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam.

A superb, crisp and contrasting impression with wide margins. Slight foxing, minor defects, otherwise in excellent, unrestored condition.

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