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Giovanni Martino de’ Boni

(1753 Venice – active in Rome until ca. 1831)

Educatio Bacchis. Etching and stipple engraving. 52.6 x 71.2 cm. 1800. Catalogue Canova e l’incisione, XXVI S 2.

The artistic career of Giovanni Martino de’ Boni was refered to in our Catalogue III Ausgewählte Druckgraphik / Selected prints (no. 32). There can be no doubt that de’ Boni, who was a close friend of Canova, was one of the best reproductive engravers of the latter’s sculptural œuvre. The breathtaking virtuosity of de’ Boni’s engraving technique and his sensitive appreciation of the refined surface treatment of Canova’s relief art can be clearly seen in the present print. This depiction of the Birth of Bacchus, a very meticulous rendering of a relief that Canova had produced in 1797 (Gipsoteca, Possagno), was engraved by de’ Boni in Rome shortly after the completion of the work. The legend in the lower margin bears the date 1800.

Canova’s relief shows an episode from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book III, 313), which celebrates the youth of Dionysus. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, who has saved the new-born Dionysus from the revenge of Hera, bends solicitously over the innocent child, who is clutching a bunch of grapes in his tiny fist. The nymphs of Nyssa bow respectfully before the young god, whose upbringing has been entrusted to them, while satyrs, Sileni and other mythical forest-dwellers hasten to the scene to see what
is going on. The glaze of the engraving technique gives de’ Boni’s engraving a life of its own, such that it almost attains the status of a work of art in its own right. Extremely fine hatching covers the background of the scene with a fine mesh, against which the figures and the details of the vegetation and rugged landscape stand out very vividly. The variety of hatching patterns is impressive. A soft, gentle light illuminates the cloth on which the infant Dionysus is lying and the texture of the pleated tunics. The sturdy, bright white wove paper effectively reinforces the sharpness of the engraved lines and the deep black of the printing ink.

A brilliant, contrasting and harmonious impression with full margins. Minimal aging, otherwise in impeccable condition.

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