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Giovanni Battista Franco

(known as il Semolei, 1498–1561, Venice)

St. Peter and St. John Healing the Cripples at the Temple Gate. Etching after Raphael. 27.6 x 39.9 cm. Bartsch XVI, p. 124, 15 before I (of II).

The composition is related to one of the tapestries Pope Leo X commissioned Raphael to make for the base of the Sistine Chapel which were produced in Brussels in the workshop of Pieter von Aelst. The design used for it, however, was neither the tapestry nor the cartoon belonging to it, but a preliminary drawing by Raphael, now lost, to which Franco had access. The most striking difference between Raphael’s modello and the tapestry is the absence of the aedicula and candlestick in the background and of the plain, smooth columns in the foreground, which on the tapestry are twisted and elaborately decorated. Francesco Parmigianino created another version at about the same time, probably with the assistance of Ugo da Carpi or Antonio da Trento and based on Raphael’s design, in which the etching was combined with two tone blocks (Bartsch XVI, 10, 7).

The distinguishing feature of Franco’s etching is his disciplined, concentrated style that is reminiscent of the practice of the Raimondi school. The balanced, very harmonious composition accords fully with Raphael’s High Renaissance ideal of beauty, while the unadorned landscape in the background conveys compactness and tranquillity. The impressive, monumental sheet, which is on offer here as an unrecorded trial proof before the reduction in size of the plate, is 22 mm larger than the impressions known hitherto. An engraved horizontal line is visible at the bottom of the image indicating where the plate should be trimmed. A brilliant, strong and rich early impression before the addition of “Franco forma”, with thread margins around the distinct platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect condition. Of the utmost rarity in this printing quality.

18,000 €

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