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Enea Vico

(1523 Parma – 1567 Ferrara)

Mars and Venus. Engraving. 29.8 x 20.6 cm. Bartsch XV, 292, 21. Watermark: Hand.

This flamboyant and rare print is characteristic of the late style of Enea Vico, who in 1541 began to work as an engraver for the publisher Tommaso Barlacchi in Rome and was later active in Florence, Venice and Ferrara. The attribution of the invention to Parmigianino is probably erroneous. Characteristic of Vico’s late style is a detailed and refined engraving technique, which has a marked decorative effect differing from the broader treatment of the early work influenced by the Raimondi School. Mars and Venus are reclining on the soft cushions of a richly ornate bed beneath a canopy. While the God of War is clad in costly armour, the naked Venus has adopted a casual pose, with Cupid snuggling against her bosom. Through a sketchily outlined opening in the wall bright rays of light penetrate the room with dramatic effect. In the light of the star-like beams we can discern a little guardian spirit with a martial sword (the personification of war?), who sits on the window sill in apparent detachment and is lost in slumber.

The print is a classic example of Mannerist refinement. The heavy, luxurious folds of the sheet and the curtain, the rich ornamentation of the couch and the details of the armour are rendered in a minute and detailed engraving technique, producing a surface pattern that borders on the calligraphic. Another characteristic is Vico’s penchant for anecdotal detail. Under a stool we see the Goddess of Love’s slippers neatly placed together, which lend the scene an almost domestic note. On the right two doves are billing and cooing, while on the left a cat is scaring off a little dog, an allusion to the imponderabilty of love. The engraving bears the address of the well-known Roman publisher Antonio Salamanca, who had come to prominence as a publisher of engravings in the 1530s.

An excellent, even and crisp impression with margins around the platemark. Slight aging, otherwise in very good condition.

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