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The Death of the Children of Niobe. Engraving after Francesco Salviati. 33.9 x 45.2 cm. 1541. Bartsch XV (Les Graveurs de l’École de Marc-Antoine Raimondi), 42, 13.
The name of Francesco Salviati is synonymous with the term Bella Maniera, a highly refined artistic idiom which dominated the art of Italy and Northern Europe in the second half of the 16th century. Salviati was a much acclaimed artist in his lifetime, enjoying the patronage of such important personalities as Cardinal Salviati, whose name he assumed, and Pope Paul III Farnese. He was active in the most important art centres of his time – Rome, Florence and Venice – as well as in France.
Salviati’s fame is also documented by the large number of engravings executed after his inventions. The present print, published by Antonio Salamanca, was produced in the first year of Salviati’s second sojourn in Rome, which lasted from 1541 to 1543. The preparatory drawing is now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The identity of the engraver was long a matter of conjecture. In the past the print was associated with both Enea Vico and Nicolas Beatrizet, yet neither attribution was entirely convincing. Much more plausible appears the recent attribution of the Death of the Children of Niobe to the engraver Girolamo Fagiuoli, who had already worked as a reproductive engraver for Salviati in Bologna about 1539 (see Suzanne Boorsch, "Salviati and Prints: The Question of Fagiuoli", in: Francesco Salviati et la Bella Maniera. Actes de colloques de Rome et de Paris, Rome 2001, pp. 515–517). Indeed, the disciplined, somewhat crude and mannered engraving technique used is reminiscent of autograph works by that artist, and such details as the rendering of clouds, sky and the rocky terrain as well as the treatment of the male body with its schematic, strongly pronounced musculature match Fagiuoli’s idiom. The effect of these large-format engravings on contemporaries must have been very great, and Salviati was evidently well aware of their propagandist merits for his art. A few years later Baccio Bandinelli attempted to outdo Salviati’s example with his equally ambitious composition The Conflict between Reason and Passion, which was engraved by Beatrizet (Bartsch XV, 262, 44; see exhibition catalogue Francesco Salviati o la Bella Maniera, Rome-Paris 1998, p. 207).
An excellent, even and harmonious impression with fine margins around the borderline; the guiding lines for the inscription still clearly visible. In mint condition. From the collections of Franz Rechberger, 1801 (from 1827 Director of the Archducal Albertina Collection, Lugt 2133) and Count d’Arenberg (Lugt 567).