E.160 Figure Costumed as Hercules

E.160 Anonymous, Figure Costumed as Hercules

Etching, Anonymous, 42.6 x 27.5 S (Paris, Ba 12).  Inscribed at the lower left: Cum priuilegio Regis:, and at the lower right: Rous • Floren • Inuen.

Fig.E.160 (Paris, Ba 12)

Bartsch, XVI, 1818, 417, 103, as Anonymous, School of Fontainebleau, approaching the manner of Master L.D.  Herbet, I, 1896, 83 (1969, 32), 60, as Master L.D., as proposed by Bartsch and repeated in the Destailleur catalogue, but Herbet is inclined to give it to Boyvin.

COLLECTIONS: Paris, Ba 12, two impressions, one complete, the second with the lower left corner missing; Ed 3 (stamped at the lower right: D.3159).  Vienna, It.II.21, p.101.  Washington (from New York, Hill-Stone, Inc.), in brown ink at upper right, a number, perhaps: 172.


Kusenberg, 1931, 167, as Anonymous.

Adhémar, 1939, 257, as Paris, Ed 3, and as by Boyvin.

Triomphe du Maniérisme, 1955, 100, no. 137 (Paris), as Boyvin.

Carroll, 1975, 25, 26, Fig. 12 (Vienna), 28, as a figure costumed as Hercules and as possibly related to the festivities at Fontainebleau for the visit of Charles V beginning 24 December 1539.

Carroll, 1978, 36, 37, Fig. 20 (Vienna), as Hercules, after Rosso of around 1539.

Zerner, IB, 33, 1979, 379 (Paris, with corner missing).

Borea, 1980, 263, no. 683 (Paris, Ba 12).

Carroll, 1987, 10, 11, 40, 342-344, no. 107, with Fig. (Paris, Ba 12), as after a drawing by Rosso of 1539.

Hill-Stone, Inc., Exhibition Checklist, New York Fine Print Fair, 1989, no. 5, as by Léon Davent, according to Henri Zerner, the subject given as A Priestess.

Brugerolles and Guillet, 1994, 108, under no. 37, as anonymous after Rosso.

Acton, in French Renaissance, 1994, 299, under no. 71.

Mugnaini, 1994, 120, Fig. (Paris).

Boorsch, in French Renaissance, 1994, 262-263, no. 52, Fig. (Paris, Ba 12, Vol. 2), as by Léon Davent and surely dating from the 1550s when he was in Paris, the French privilege tending to indicate not earlier than the mid-1550s, although there is no certainty on this point, the publisher perhaps the enterprise of Milan and Boyvin, and possibly a fused reference to both Charles V and Francis I, the olive branch alluding to both rulers with the symbolic image of peace.

Carroll, 1995, 303, noted that there are no other prints by Davent after Rosso, and that the lettering is exactly like that on the engravings of Milan and Boyvin, indicating perhaps that they made etchings at some time in their careers.

Meyer, 1995, 299, mentions the relation to Hellenistic and Roman imperial coins and sculpture, where the skin of the Nemean lion is worn as a cloak with the head framing the wearer’s face.

This etching, which is described in various catalogues as a young woman, is a figure costumed as Hercules and carrying an olive branch as a staff instead of the usual club of olive wood.  Stylistically, the costume resembles that of Rosso’s Three Fates, Costume Designs of around 1534, engraved by Milan (Fig.E.104).  But the Hercules costume is less complex and more elegantly sumptuous, and the whole figure is so much more eloquent, suggesting that it is a later invention.

The style of the image, comparable in its seriousness to Rosso’s Empedocles-St. Roch (Fig.D.80a), indicates a very late date in Rosso’s career for it.  It may have been designed for the festivities that accompanied Charles V’s visit to Fontainebleau at the end of December 1539, perhaps for one of the “personnes déguisées en forme de Dieux, et de Deesses boccageres” that, according to Dan, 1642, 219, greeted the emperor as he approached the château (see Chapter X, L.48, and L.49).  Or the Hercules costume could have been invented for some other event performed at Fontainebleau at the time of this visit.  Charles V, like Francis I, was identified with Hercules, as we know from various sources, including Rosso’s design of a silver statue of this god that was given to the emperor at the beginning of January 1540 (L.59).  Rosso’s Dream of Hercules (Fig.D.78a) may also have been invented for Charles V’s visit.

The technique of the etching leads one to believe that it is based very closely on a lost drawing by Rosso, one similar to the Empedocles-St. Roch and the Judith and Holofernes (Fig.D.84a).  Because the figure holds the branch with his left hand, it may be in reverse of the lost drawing.

In spite of Boorsch’s apparent certainty that the print is by Léon Davent (Master L.D.), to my eye the Figure Costumed as Hercules does not especially resemble his etchings.  Nor is Davent known to have worked from any other image by Rosso.  The print seems to be by the same etcher as the Draped Youth Leaning on a Block (Fig.E.147).  As suggested under E.147, it is possible that this print is by an engraver who ventured into etching, possibly Milan or Boyvin, whose engravings are inscribed with the same kind of lettering and who worked frequently from Rosso’s drawings.  Herbet attributed it to Boyvin and it was attributed to him in the Triomphe du Maniérisme exhibition.