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E.100 Allegory on the Birth of Christ

E.100 Master I.♀.V., Allegory on the Birth of Christ

Etching by Master I.♀.V., 32.2 x 27.6 P (Vienna).  Inscribed in the lower right corner: I V B.

Fig.E.100 (Florence)

Bartsch, XVI, 1818, 388-389, 32 (as inscribed IVR), as Anonymous, School of Fontainebleau, recalling not Giulio Romano, which the initials would indicate, but Rosso, and a copy of Fantuzzi’s print [E.80].  Herbet, IV, 1900, 353 (1969, 203), 18 (as inscribed IVR), as Master I.♀.V., after Rosso, and as a reverse copy of Fantuzzi’s etching.

COLLECTIONS: Florence, 782ss.  Los Angeles (see Davis, 1988, below).  Paris, Ba 12, p.10 (trimmed on all sides); Ed 8b, no. 128.  Vienna, It.III.3, p.6.

LITERATURE: Kusenberg, 1931, 164, 166-167, as by Jean Vaquet after Rosso and a reversed copy of Fantuzzi’s print.  Anthony de Witt, “Sull’acquaforte italiana prima dell’800,” BdA, XXVI, 1932, 470, 475, as perhaps after a design by Rosso.  De Witt, 1938, 45, as after Giulio Romano.  Adhémar, 1938, 151, no. 18, as Jean Vaquet, and as a copy of Fantuzzi’s print after Rosso.  Zerner, 1969, under A.F.74, as a copy by Master I.♀.V. after Fantuzzi; the same in Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 271, 273, under no. 325.  Carroll, 1975, 22, 24, Fig. 8 (Florence), as attributed to Giulio Bonasone.  Zerner, IB, 33, 1979, 309 (Vienna).  Borea, 1980, 262, no. 671, as Monogramist lVR (or lV), alias l + V, and a reversed copy of Fantuzzi.  Carroll, 1987, 31, 310-315, no. 100 (Vienna).  Davis, 1988, 200-201, no. 85, Fig. (Los Angeles), as The Holy Family after a composition by Rosso of 1525-1530, and as a copy in reverse of Fantuzzi’s etching.  Boorsch, 1989, 189, as difficult to reconcile with the known work of Master I.♀.V.  Franklin, 1994, 79, Pl. 58 (Vienna), as by Master I.♀.V., as after a French design by Rosso, and as less coherent than Rosso’s painting in Los Angeles.

This etching is generally considered a copy of Fantuzzi’s etching (Fig.E.81), in reverse and almost exactly the same size.  But this cannot be entirely true because of the few differences between them, on which see below.  The slight garment worn by the vase-bearer in the print by Master I.♀.V., while not found in Fantuzzi’s print, does appear in Rosso’s drawing of this composition of around 1537 (Fig.D.72).  But this detail in the drawing appears somewhat different in the print – in the drawing, as in Fantuzzi’s etching, the drapery flying out behind the vase-bearer seems not to be a part of his garment fastened to the band across his torso and to the piece of drapery covering his abdomen but to belong to the bundle of drapery carried by the other angel.  What is likely is that the band and drapery actually covering the body in the drawing are additions to it, derived from the etching by Master I.♀.V.  Both prints show Christ entirely nude, while in the drawing his genitals are covered by a small piece of drapery, which is very probably another addition.

Some details of the print by Master I.♀.V. could be looked upon as elaborations of those in Fantuzzi’s print: the drapery, hair, and feathers are more precisely described, the handle of the vase carried by the vase-bearer is complete, the window in the background is dark, and a ribbed urn appears in the slightly wider space behind the woman seated at the left.  But two other details are of a different kind: the cross in the foreground is parallel to the picture plane rather than on a diagonal as in Fantuzzi’s etching, and St. John wears a wreath of leaves on his head that is not found in the other etching but which seems to be in Rosso’s drawing and is found in the anonymous etching of this composition (Fig.E.150) that is not copied from either of the other prints.  The placement of the cross is also as in the drawing, but in reverse.  Because the print by Master I.♀.V. is in the same direction as Rosso’s drawing, it is likely that it did not serve as Master I.♀.V.’s major model.  Fantuzzi’s reversed etching is a more complete model.  But Master I.♀.V. would seem also to have known and borrowed from Rosso’s drawing of this composition or from a copy of it.  This could have been the same drawing (or copy) from which the anonymous etcher worked, showing the vase-bearer nude. Fantuzzi would have worked from this drawing, too, not noticing the wreath on St. John’s head and moving the cross on a diagonal to fill the slightly greater space at the bottom of his plate.

On the date of this composition around 1537, see D.72.

OTHER VERSIONS OF THIS COMPOSITION, PRINTS: E.81 (Fig.E.81).  Fantuzzi, etching.  Bartsch, XVI, 1818, 336-337, 1.  Herbet, II, 1896, 281 (1969, 77), 38.

E.150 (Fig.E.150).  Anonymous, etching.  Herbet, IV, 1900, 353 (1969, 203), under no. 18, and Herbet, V, 1902, 22 (1969, 215).

For other prints after Rosso possibly by Master I.♀.V.:

Anonymous, E.140, Allegory of Rage and Madness
Anonymous, E.142, The Twins of Catania
Anonymous, E.148, The Birth of Venus
Anonymous, E.153, Holy Family in a Cartouche