The four single engravings catalogued here as by Pierre Milan were all formerly attributed to René Boyvin, who was his pupil.  The identification of Milan and of the prints that can be assigned to him is based upon the documents published by Metman in 1941 and discussed by Adhémar in 1953 and by Zerner in 1969; another document was published by Grodecki in 1986.1

The documents can be interpreted to indicate that three of the prints after Rosso’s designs – the Dance of the Dryads (E.102), the Three Fates, Costume Designs (E.104), and the Three Fates, Nude (E.105) – were engraved by Milan before the end of October 1545.  The fourth – the Nymph of Fontainebleau (E.103) – was left incomplete by Milan in 1545 and on 3 March 1553 was assigned to Boyvin to be finished; it was finished by 15 February 1554.  Zerner suggested that a set of twenty prints of the Loves of the Gods, already printed before the end of October 1550, were copies by Milan of the set of engravings that Caraglio had made in Rome, two after the drawings of Rosso (E.46-47), the others after the designs of Perino del Vaga.  One set of prints that might be identifiable with the set mentioned in the documents had also been attributed to Boyvin.

The earliest notices of Milan refer to him as a “graveur en planches du Roi” living in Paris in August 1540.2  Metman believed he was of Italian ancestry, of Milanese origin, as his name would seem to indicate, but implies that he, himself, was born in France.  Adhémar wished to believe that he actually came from Italy and was trained as an engraver by Marcantonio in Rome.  He would have fled Rome at the time of the Sack of 1527 and made his way to Northern Italy, possibly to Venice.  This reconstruction presents the likelihood that Milan met Rosso in Italy and, as suggested by Adhémar, that it could have been the latter who was largely responsible for bringing the engraver to Paris.  Adhémar believed that he may be identifiable with a certain Pieter de la Cuffle who, according to Van Mander, was active in Paris as an engraver of compositions by Rosso and was active in the years 1547-1552.3  As Metman knew no documents after 1551 that mention Milan, he thought the engraver died that year or in 1552.4  But Grodecki later published documents that show that he was still alive on 12 January 1554, when he rented two rooms for a year, well after the time that Boyvin contracted on 14 November 1545 to work in his shop for two years.5  He was, thus, still alive while Boyvin was completing the Nymph of Fontainebleau that Milan had left incomplete in 1545.

Whatever the place of his birth, it is very possible that Milan was trained, if not in Rome, then by examples of Roman engraving studied in France.  As he was already active by the late 1530s – that is, just before the first notice of him – then it is possible that his career and the introduction of engraving in France were advanced through the advocacy of Rosso himself.6  Zerner suggested the possibility of Rosso’s encouragement of this art on the evidence of the technical similarity of early French engravings to Caraglio’s prints.7  This hypothesis would be strengthened if and when it can be shown that Milan actually did make copies of Caraglio’s Loves of the Gods.


1 Grodecki, 1989, 220, no. 864.

2 Grodecki, 1989, 221-222, nos. 866 and 867 (19 and 22 August 1540).

3 Pieter de la Cuffle is also mentioned in Adhémar, 1959, 468, in Béguin, 1960, 34, and in Oberhuber, 1966, 177-178.  Béguin accepted this identification in Revue de l’Art, 1968, 103.  Zerner, 1969, XXXVI-XXXVII, found this suggestion probable but one that still requires confirmation.  Jestaz, 1969, 356, thought that his “plafond carré” permits us to recognize Milan as the Pieter de la Cuffle cited by Van Mander.

4 Metman, 1941, 204, stated that “Comme Pierre Millan n’apparaît plus après 1551, il est clair qu’il est mort vers cette date…”  Adhémar, 1953, 304, believed him to have been dead by 1553, in which year Boyvin was commissioned to finish two of his plates.  Oberhuber, 1966, 177-178, stated that he was dead in 1553.  The documents were interpreted differently by Zerner (1969, XXXVI, and in EdF, 1972, 323), who indicated that he was still alive in 1556 and 1557.

5 Grodecki 1989, 222-224, nos. 868-872.

6 Wardropper, 1985, 29, stated that Milan seems to have made prints in the 1530s.

7 Zerner, 1969, XIV-XVII, XXXVIII, where he also suggested that Milan was the founder of the Parisian school of engravers.  Both he and his pupil, René Boyvin, were especially dedicated to engraving Rosso’s works, which would seem to indicate that they had special access to them – to his drawings, one has to conclude, from which the prints are derived.  Zerner proposed that upon Rosso’s death his drawings would have passed to Primaticcio.  However, this may not have been the case, especially as Primaticcio was not in France when Rosso died and did not return until a year or more later (Dimier, 1900, 59-59, 329-330).  Some drawings, at least, may have been acquired by Milan from Rosso’s studio in Paris after his death.  But some could have been obtained directly from Rosso.  As Vasari did not know of the distinction between Boyvin and Milan, his comments on the former bear upon the latter.  Vasari seems to have thought (1568, II, 308; Vasari-Milanesi, V, 444) that Boyvin engraved certain of Rosso’s works while Rosso was still alive.  But Boyvin is first known when he contracted to work for Milan in 1549.  Hence Vasari’s comment may refer to Milan.   See the Pluto and Proserpina and the Saturn and Philyra of the Milan-Boyvin set of the Loves of the Gods under Caraglio, E.46-47.   See the Pluto and Proserpina of the Du Cerceau set of the Loves of the Gods under Caraglio, E.46-47.