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Giovanni David

(1743 Cabella Ligure – 1790 Genoa)

The Rape of Europe. Etching on firm Venetian laid paper. 23.5 x 31.5 cm. (1776). Newcome Schleier/ Grasso 121 I (of II). Watermark: Countermark DV.

Giovanni David has depicted the famous scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses with great verve and a strong sense of dramatic narrative. Surrounded by a sea god, sea nymphs and putti, Europe sits on the back of a white bull which drags her away from the shore where her companions lament in despair. The king’s daughter looks back with outspread arms and a look of pain on her face, but she cannot prevent her seducer, Zeus, from carrying her off to Crete. At the top right in the sky two putti vainly attempt to prevent an eagle from continuing its flight, which can be seen as an astute and imaginative reference to the powerful Olympian god. The picture was etched in various stages, the treatment of the landscape in the background, in particular, being very light and transparent. The print has minor blotches in some places which are attributable to foul biting, a recurrent phenomenon on all the known impressions of this print. The etching is rare and stems from the artist’s Venetian period (1775–1779). Treated with great charm and liveliness, this print is one of a series of six etchings on mythological themes which David produced in 1776 and devoted to the wife of his patron, Count Giacomo Durazzo. A very fine, vibrant early impression with even margins, before the address of the Venetian publisher, Teodoro Viero. Minor ageing, otherwise in very good condition.

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