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Jean Lepautre & Henri Gissey

(1612–1682, Paris & 1615–1674, Paris)

Attributed. Tiberio Fiorelli in the Role of Scaramuccia. Etching. 26.9 x 41.2 cm. Préaud 294 II; Robert-Dumesnil (Gissey) 1.

The person portrayed here is the famous Italian actor, Tiberio Fiorelli, who excelled in the role of Scaramuccia in Paris theatres at the time of Louis XIV. According to Maxime Préaud, this work could be the combined effort of two artists. Jean Lepautre engraved the half-length portrait of the roughly 40-year-old actor, while Henri Gissey contributed the wonderfully rich ornamental frame. Scaramuccia is a figure from Italian commedia dell’arte; he was mostly dressed in black and appeared in traditional Spanish costume. He embodied the typical Neapolitan adventurer and windbag and first appeared in place of the Spanish captain in the theatrical performances of the commedia around 1680.

Gissey has designed the opulent and highly symbolic ornamental border with obvious pleasure and great stylishness. A lush garland of leafy vegetables of varying kinds – firm artichokes and pumpkins reproduced so realistically that they appear almost tangible – stands for fertility and zest for life. Two guitars, which are among Scaramuccia’s attributes, give the depiction a sense of symmetry and compositional balance. Arranged on a table is a colourful still life of animals, foodstuffs and cooking utensils. On the left a goose watches over her brood as two goslings hatch from their shells; on the opposite side a little songbird is locked in cage. All this serves as a clear reference to Tiberio Fiorilli’s legendary appetite and gives the work the quality of a genre account that is of importance for cultural history. The print exists in various versions, including one with eight Italian and French verses. The plate was last used in amended form for the 1664 Almanach.

A superb, rich impression with thread margins around the platemark. With an old inscription in pen and black ink: “Morin fecit”. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. 

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