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Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi

(circa 1606 Bologna – 1680 Rome)

Circle of. A Landscape with a Small Bridge. Etching. 25.6 x 35.4 cm. Unrecorded. Watermark: Tre mezze Lune (cf. Woodward 139 ff, Italy, late 16th century or later).

The descriptive literature contains no precise information on the authorship and origin of this bizarre and enigmatic print. Nagler records two similar monograms which he associates with Gaspar Dughet (Die Monogrammisten, II, 2872, 2873) and mentions a “Landscape with Bridge”, which at that time was in a private collection in Kiel. The author had not seen the print with his own eyes, however, which is an indication of the extraordinary rarity of the present etching.

This very free and painterly etching shows a wide mountain landscape of ascending tiers, whose individual components look like carelessly assembled theatrical properties. We see a fantastic conglomerate of gnarled trees with widely spreading branches, tangled shrubbery, overgrown spurs of rock and little streams. Through this desolate, inhospitable landscape move lonely travellers, looking strangely lost. Isolated structures loom amidst the wild, dense vegetation, without there being any suggestion of human activity. High up on the horizon an odd-shaped rock formation is crowned by a fort with flag flying.

Stylistically the print makes a strangely incoherent impression. The massive oak in the foreground, which serves as a repoussoir, was probably inspired by the landscape prints of Francesco Grimaldi. A recently discovered, unrecorded etching by the artist shows a tree that is surprisingly similar in stylistic terms (see Bassenge: Auction catalogue 78, Ausgewählte Graphik aus drei Jahrhunderten. Uncommon Prints from Three Centuries, 30 November 2001, no. 5195). In other places the drawing is more hesi- tant and less confident, and the artist seems to have difficulty in arranging the composition satisfactorily. Could this be the first attempt at an etching by an artist closely associated with Grimaldi? The traces of accidental foul biting at various places underline the experimental character of this print, so that one may assume that only very few impressions exist or that it might even be unique.

A very fine, tonal and suggestive impression with margins around the borderline and thread margins around the platemark on the right. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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