RE.3 Two Skeletons and Two Flayed Male Figures

RE.3 Barbiere, Two Skeletons, Flayed Figures

Engraving by Domenico del Barbiere, 23.8 x 33.9 P (London).  Inscribed on a small slip of curled paper at the lower left: DOMENICO . / FIORENTINO . (all of the Ns printed backward).  There may be some numbers inscribed on the neck and shoulder of the uncovered jar only a small part of which is visible behind the ewer in the center of the print; perhaps also the number 34 may appear on the darkly shadowed crown at the bottom center.

Fig.RE.3 (New York)

Heinecken, I, 1778, 407, 44, under contemporaries of Marcantonio, after Rosso.  Bartsch, XVI, 1818, 359-360, 8, as Barbiere after Rosso.  Le Blanc, 1854-1888/90, I, 147, 9, as after Rosso.  Herbet, III, 1899, 10, 8, as Barbiere after Rosso.  Zerner, 1969, XXXVIII, and D.B.10, 1540-1545, and as perhaps related to a lost anatomy project by Rosso but more likely an adaptation of several drawings by Rosso.

COLLECTIONS: Hamburg, Inv. no. 1120.  London, 1851-2-8-101.  Los Angeles (Ruiz).  New York, 49.95.181.  Paris, Ba 12, 146.


Meyer, 1872-1885, II, 728, no. 11.

Choulant, 1920 (1852), 108, 113-114, 414-415, as Barbiere, not after Michelangelo, but after Rosso for an anatomy book he intended to publish for Francis I.

Kusenberg, 1931, 106, 159, as after Rosso.

Brieger, 1938, 340 and Fig. 3, as after Rosso.

Schlosser Magnino, 1956, 232, as related to Rosso (Schlosser, 1924, 204).

School of Fontainebleau, Fort Worth, 1965, 33, ill. (New York), 43, as after Rosso.

Zerner, in EdF, 1972, 279, 280, ill. (Paris), and in Fontainebleau, 1973, I, 73, Fig. 40, II, 87, no. 339, as Barbiere, and thought to be related to an anatomy prepared by Rosso; also its subject recalling the vanity of human things in the face of death.

Eisler, 1973, 640, as possibly after Rosso, and a variation on the Dance of Death theme.

Zerner, IB, 33, 1979, 264 (London).

Borea, 1980, 278, ill. (Paris), 280, no. 768, as of Barbiere’s own design.

Lévèque, 1984, 11, 12, Fig. (Paris), as a modernized version of medieval “vanitiés” and “danses macabres.”

Mayor, 1984, 68, 69, Fig. 42, wrongly as an etching, as Barbiere, before 1530, after Rosso.

K. Wilson-Chevalier, in Fontainebleau, 1985, 247-249, no. 193 (Paris), as Barbiere, and not related to Rosso’s anatomy book.

Wardropper, 1985, 38, 56-60, Fig. 14, as Barbiere, as of the early 1540s, and of his design.

M. Boeckl, in Zauber der Medusa, 1987, 290, no. VI, 23, Fig. (Hamburg), as after Rosso.

Davis, 1988, 166-167, no. 64, Fig. (Los Angeles), 195, under no. 82, with bibliography, as after Rosso.

Kornell, 1989, 846, Fig. 58, 847, accepts Zerner’s caution in attributing its design to Rosso.

The attribution of the design of this print to Rosso has, it would seem, been dependent upon Vasari’s reference to his having planned an anatomy book in France (see L.60) and to the unusual appearance of this print.  It is possible that Barbiere knew anatomical drawings by Rosso and that this print is dependent upon this knowledge of, and upon a sympathy with, Rosso’s kind of imagination.  But the style of this image does not suggest that it is specifically based on any drawings by Rosso.  The poses of the figures do not look like those of his figures and the head of the nude at the right does not correspond to any kind of his inventions.  Nor do the designs of the objects in the scene look like the types of vases that can be associated with his style.  There is also a compositional simplicity about the scene that is not suggestive of Rosso’s art.  A certain ease or grace brings to mind the influence of Primaticcio.  It is very likely, as Borea suggested, that the design of this print is by Barbiere himself.  Davis stated that it has been suggested that the juxtaposition of flayed and skeletal figures may reflect illustrations in Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica of 1543.  This book postdates Rosso’s death by two or three years.  Thus if such a relationship exists the invention of Barbiere’s print cannot be Rosso’s.

As Zerner and Eisler indicated, the scene is a kind of Memento mori as well as an anatomical demonstration.