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Enea Vico (Parma 1523-1567 Ferrara)

The Acadamy of Baccio Bandinelli

inscribed ‘Baccius Bandinellus invent., Enea vigo Parmegiano Sculpst./ Roma Petrus Paulus Palumbus formis’ (in the plate)
engraving, illegible oval watermark
30.8 x 48 cm
Bartsch 49, [1] undescribed state between Bartsch’s first and second state
a very good impression, with thread margins on the upper, right and left edges, trimmed to or slightly into the image at the left edge, there is an unobtrusive closed tear in the centre of the right edge, some creases in the upper right edge and some other minor (skilfully treated) nicks along the edges, there is some minor discolouration to the edges, the sheet is in otherwise very good condition

Joseph Maberly (1783-1860), London and Cuckfield (L. 1845); probably his sale; Sotheby’s, London, 26-30 May, lot 590 (‘AENEAS VICO. The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli (49), before the name of Vico, very fine and rare’).

In this particularly large and ambitious engraving, the highpoint in Enea Vico’s graphic œuvre, the artist shows Baccio Bandinelli’s famous academy dramatically lit by candle light. Bandinelli, the great sculptor and life-long rival of Michelangelo, was one of the leading sculptors of his time. Active in Florence for most of his career, he enjoyed the patronage of the Medici and he received numerous important public commissions including the statue of Saint Peter for the façade of the Duomo and the Hercules and Cacus for the Piazza della Signoria. A fervent advocate of drawing lessons for sculptors, he ran a drawing’s academy in Florence where young artists were taught disegno (the concept of drawn design). To celebrate and underline his status as a drawing’s teacher and a learned man, Bandinelli commissioned Vico to execute the present engraving.

The composition gives an idealised vision of Bandinelli’s academy; two groups of men are shown while drawing, reading or conversing. They are depicted as learned and gifted men, as is underlined by the piles of books, skeletons and wax and terracotta sculptures scattered on the floor and on the shelf above them. The skeletons played an important role in anatomical drawings and it was common practice for drawing students to make drawn copies after antique scultpures, or indeed wax, terracotta or bronze copies after them. Indeed, the standing figure in the centre of the composition seems particularly absorbed by his drawing after such a statue.

Bandinelli’s self-promotion is evident in the fact that he depicts himself in at the far right while wearing a coat embraided with the insignia of the cavaliere di Santiago, a title that was conferred on the artist by Charles V in 1529. The insignia furthermore appears above the fireplace, in case there would be any doubt over Bandinelli’s status as a cavaliere. Interestingly, this engraving was not the first of this subject that Bandinelli had commissioned; it builds on an earlier engraving by Agostino Veneziano from 1531. That engraving is similar in spirit, it is as dramatically lit as the present engraving, and too shows artists and students occupied with drawing and the study of antique sculpture. It is much smaller in size, though, and only shows one table with artists and less paraphernalia scattered around them. While Bartsch records two states of the present engraving, the first without the inscription on the right page of the book in the upper and the address of Gaspare Alberti just right of the reclining dog, the present impression is the second, undescribed, state of three. [2]

[1] J. Spike and W. Strauss, 'The Illustrated Bartsch. 30. Formerly Volume 15 (Part 3). Italian Masters of the Sixteenth Century', New York, 1985.
[2] See B. Thomas, ‘The Academy of Baccio Bandinelli’, Print Quarterly, No. 1, vol. 22, 2005 (March), p. 13.

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