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RENÉ BOYVIN

Vasari’s short account of René Boyvin’s activity as an engraver in the second edition of the Lives (1568, II, 308; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 433-434) connects this printmaker entirely with the reproduction of Rosso’s designs:

“Ed è tant’oltre proceduto quest’uso, e modo di stampare, che coloro, che ne fanno arte tengano disegnatori in opera continuamente, i quali ritraendo cio che si fa di bello, le mettono in istampa.  Onde si vede che in Francia son venute stampate dopo la morte del Rosso, tutto quello, che si è potuto trovare di sua mano, come Clelia, con le sabine, che passano il fiume, alcune maschere fatte per lo Re Francesco, simili alle parche; una Nunziata bizzarra, un ballo di dieci femmine; e il re Francesco, che passa solo al tempio di Giove, lasciandosi dietro l’Ignoranza, ed altre figure simili.  E queste furono condotte da Renato intagliatore di Rame vivente il Rosso.  E molte più ne sono state disegnate ed intagliate doppo la morte di lui, ed oltre molte cose, tutte l’istorie d’Ulisse, e non che altro, vasi, lumiere, candelieri, salieri, ed altre cose simili infinite state lavorate d’Argento con disegno del Rosso.”

All of the prints mentioned by Vasari except those of the “istorie d’Ulisse” can be identified with existing engravings.  And all except the Ulysses scenes and the Clelia can be related to Rosso, although the prints of silverwork designs are probably not after Rosso’s own inventions but only in his manner (RE.25-26).  The Clelia is after a design by Giulio Romano.  The mention of Ulysses subjects may be a confusion on Vasari’s part with what he thought in his “Life” of Rosso was painted by him in the Gallery of Francis I.  Boyvin and his shop did engrave four or five scenes that appear in this room, one of which Vasari mentioned although not as related to the gallery.

But even with these matters clarified Vasari’s account is still to be questioned.  In 1941, Metman showed that certain unsigned and unmonogrammed engravings that had long been thought to be by Boyvin are in fact by Pierre Milan.  Of them, three would seem to have been thought by Vasari to be Boyvin’s: the Clelia after Giulio, and, more to the point here, the Three Fates, Costume Designs (E.104) – “alcune maschere fatte per lo Re Francesco, simili alle parche” – and the Dance of the Dryads (E.102) – “un ballo di dieci femmine.”  The last two prints were engraved by Milan in 1545.  The Clelia (Zerner, 1969, P.M. 6) was left incomplete and was finished by Boyvin by 15 February 1554.  Milan was still alive on 12 January 1554, when he is recorded as renting two rooms for a year.

Although Vasari did not know of Milan, his account of Boyvin’s activity implies, nevertheless, the work of someone other than that printmaker alone.  First Vasari said that Boyvin’s prints were made “dopo la morte del Rosso,” and he repeated this later in his account. But he also said that some of Boyvin’s prints were made “vivente il Rosso.”  No information indicates that Boyvin was an engraver before November 1549 when he contracted to work for Milan for two years.1  Milan is known to have been established as an engraver in Paris by August 1540, hence only shortly before Rosso died.2  It may be Milan’s activity that Vasari had hint of, not knowing, however, that it was to be distinguished from Boyvin’s.

Of the prints mentioned by Vasari, only one, the “re Francesco, che passa solo al tempio di Giove” is fully signed by Boyvin: Renatus Fecit.  Boyvin also signed his prints with a monogram composed of the superimposed letters R and B.  Many prints in his manner of engraving bear neither his name nor his monogram.  In 1941, Levron catalogued the prints associated with Boyvin under two headings: as by Boyvin himself, if the prints were inscribed with his name or monogram, or as by the Shop of Boyvin if not signed in any way.  In the following catalogue all the prints are placed together with comments on their differences placed in the text of each entry.  It cannot, however, be verified now that the uninscribed prints are actually from Boyvin’s shop.  There is still a need for clarification here.  Some of the prints might be ascribable to Milan, under whom Boyvin was trained in Paris.3  None of Milan’s known prints is signed.  The manner in which they are engraved can hardly be distinguished from what is generally recognized as Boyvin’s.  The possibility also exists that some of the prints were made by a still-unidentified engraver whose technique resembles his.

For the Nymph of Fontainebleau, begun by Milan and left incomplete in 1545, and finished by Boyvin between March 1553 and February 1554, see E.103, and under P.22, IV South.

Six prints, which have been related to Boyvin, have, for various reasons, been catalogued more appropriately under Anonymous: Mars and Venus (E.130, also ascribed to Caraglio, and possibly by Jacob Bink), Two Groups of Three Putti (E.139), related to the framing of the Combat of Centaurs and Lapiths in the Gallery of Francis I, Figure Costumed as Hercules (E.160, an etching), Holy Family with St. Anne (E.161, also given to Domenico del Barbiere), and Christ in a Niche I (E.156).  A Scene of Sacrifice (E.50, as Delaune) has also been attributed to Boyvin.

 


1 See Grodecki, 1989, 222-223, no. 869.  Bimbenet-Privat and Le Bars, 1994, 153, conjectured that Boyvin settled in Paris c. 1545 and set up for himself around 1551.  Herbet, III, 1899, 34-35 (1969, 122-123), tried to extend Boyvin’s career back as early as 1537, but he is certainly mistaken.

2 See Grodecki, 1989, 221-222, nos. 866 and 867.

3 Metman (1941) did not state that Boyvin was Milan’s pupil.  Coming from Angers, where he may have been born c. 1520, it has been thought, by Robert-Dumesnil (VIII, 1850, 14) and by Levron (1941, 12), that Boyvin was trained by Simon Haye-Neufre before coming to Paris.  Adhémar (1953, 364) and Zerner (1964, 81) assumed that he was Milan’s pupil in Paris even before Grodecki published the document that proves this to have been the case.