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Last updated: 1/25/2017
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Old Master Prints: Giovanni Battista Franco (Venice before 1510-1561)

North Italian Illuminated Manuscript / Italian Old Master Drawings: An Overview / Italian School, 16th-Century Drawings
Michelangelo Buonarotti (After) / Raphael / Giulio Romano / Perino del Vaga / Marcantonio Raimondi / Parmigianino
Titian (after) / Andrea Schiavone / Tintoretto / Veronese / Taddeo Zuccaro / Federico Zuccaro / Alessandro Casolani
Jacopo Palma il Giovane / Cherubino Alberti / Luca Cambiaso / Annibale Carracci / Ludovico Carracci

Italian School, 17th-Century Drawings / Bolognese School / Giovanni Baglione / Matteo Rosselli / Ercole Bazzicaluva
Baldassare Franceschini called Il Volterrano / Pier Francesco Mazzuccelli, il Morazzone / Odoardo Fialetti / Simone Cantarini
Domenichino / Francesco Albani / Giovanni Lanfranco / Guercino / Pier Francesco Mola / Antonio Busca

Italian School Printmakers, 15th-17th Centuries: Venetian School, c. 1497 / Raphael School / Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio
Marcantonio Raimondi / The Master of the Die / Anea Vico / Agostino Veneziano / Nicholas Beatrizet
Michelangelo Buonarotti (After) / Giulio Bonasone / Giovanni Battista Franco /Girolamo Fagiuoli / Cherubino Alberti
Titian (after) / Tintoretto (after) / Parmigianino / Giorgio Ghisi / Diana Scultori / Annibale Carracci / Ludovico Carracci
Agostino Carracci / Simone Cantarini / Elisabetta Sirani / Gerolamo Scarsello

Netherlandish School, 15th-17th-Century Drawings / Flemish School, 17th-Century
Bernaert van Orley / Lucas van Leyden / Maarten de Vos / Jan Baptiste de Wael / Abraham Bloemaert
Peter Paul Rubens / Philipp Sadeler / Nicolaes Maes / Rembrandt School

Netherlandish Printmakers 16th-17th Centuries: Lucas van Leyden, Maarten van Heemskerck, Cornelis Cort
Philips Galle, Abraham de Bruyn, Hans (Jan) Collaert, Adriaen Collaert, Karel de Mallery, Theodore Galle, Hendrik Goltzius
Julius Goltzius, Jacob Matham, Jan Sanraedam, Maarten de Vos, Jan Sadeler, Aegidius Sadeler, Raphael Sadeler
Crispin de Passe, Magdalena de Passe, Wierix Brothers, Rembrandt, Rembrandt School, Jan Lievens, Jan Joris van Vliet,
Ferdinand Bol, Govert Flinck
German Drawings: Hans Sebald Beham / Virgil Solis / Hans von Aachen / Joseph Heinrich Roos
German 16th century printmakers: Heinrich Aldegrever, Jost Amman, Hans Sebald Beham, Hans Brosamer, Hans Burgkmair,
Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Durer, Albrecht Durer (After), Hans Holbein (After), Hopfer Brothers, Georg Pencz, Hans Schäufelein,
Virgil Solis, Wolfgang Stuber

French Drawings: Charles de La Fosse / Etienne Parrocel / François Boucher / Jean-François de Neufforge / Mouricault
French printmakers: Etienne Delaune / Rene Boyvin /Thomas de Leu / Jean Cousin the Younger / Jacques Callot
Abraham Bosse / Sebastien Bourdon / Claude Gelle "le Lorraine" / Jean LePautre
Claudine Bouzonnet Stella / Antonette Bouzonnet Stella / Gabriel Perelle

19th-Century Drawings / 20th-Century Drawings
Giovanni Battista Franco (before 1510 - 1561, also know as Battista Franco Veneziano) was an Italian Mannerist painter and printmaker in etching active in Rome, Urbino, and Venice in the mid 1500s. He is also known as il Semolei or just Battista Franco (as he often signed himself in his prints). Native to Venice, he came to Rome in his twenties. He painted an allegory of the Battle of Montemurlo now in the Pitti Palace (1537), and a fresco of the Arrest of John the Baptist for the Oratory of San Giovanni Decollato (1541). From 1545-51 he painted in Urbino. He may have been, along with Girolamo Genga, one of the mentors of Federico Barocci. He studied in Rome, giving special attention to the works of Michelangelo, and took great interest in designing allegorical decorations on a large scale. He worked with Vasari in carrying out some decorative work in a palace for Ottaviano de' Medici, but is better known for his portraits of the Medici family, which were, however, to a great extent copies from the works of other men. His designs for majolica were of importance and were executed for the Duke of Urbino; but perhaps he is better remembered for his etchings, of which there are over a hundred, than for any other works. He returned to Venice, where he helped fresco the ceiling of the Biblioteca Marciana (library). He painted a series of panels, including a Baptism of Christ, for the walls and vault of the Grimani chapel in the church San Francesco della Vigna in Venice. He painted the Raising of Lazarus in the Ducal palace. (For the bare facts of his career, I am indebted to entries in Wikipedia and The Catholic Encyclopedia; for a more complete outline, see Maria Sica's entry in the Grove Dictionary of Art, 11: 720-722).)

The first life of Franco was done by Vasari, Battista Franco, Painter of Venice (1498-1561), vol. 4, 15-23, who knew him and should have been sympathetic to him for his love of Michelangelo and his obsession with disegno (drawing/design), since those are the very things that Vasari praises elsewhere, especially in his Lives of Michelangelo and Titian. His Life of Franco opens as follows: "Battista Franco, having studied design in his early childhood, went at the age of twenty to Rome, where, after having devoted himself to various styles for some time, he resolved to imitate nothing but the designs, paintings, and sculptures of Michelangelo. Accordingly there was nothing of that master which he did not copy, and before long he became one of the first draughtsmen frequenting Michelagnolo's chapel, and for some time he did nothing but draw without caring to paint" (p. 13). After praising his first commission for a series of paintings depicting the battles of the Scipios father and son against Carthage, in which he notes that these were his first paintings in colors ("Although he had never touched colors . . . all of these scenes were of considerable merit and much praised as being Battista's earliest works and by comparison with those of the others," he then critiques him: "If he had first begun to paint and learned the use of colors and the brush he would have doubtless surpassed several of the competitors, but he persisted in an opinion held by many, that a painter need only know drawing, to his great prejudice" [IV, 16]. When Franco does one of the ten large paintings commissioned for the marriage of Duke Cosimo de' Medici with Leonora of Toledo, Vasari (who notes that he himself had absented himself from the felicity, "determined never to follow courts again, for he had lost his first master, Cardinal Ippolito de' Medici and then Duke Alessandro" [IV, 17]), says of Franco, "The best thing he did for the wedding was one of the ten pictures of the great court of the Medici palace, representing Duke Cosimo in grisaille. . . . But in spite of his diligence he was surpassed by Bronzino and the others, who were inferior to him in design but who excelled him in invention, vigor, and the treatment of grisaille, for, as I have elsewhere remarked, paintings must be executed with ease and the things disposed with judgment, too much effort making them appear hard and crude. Too great a strain often spoils a work, destroying the facility, grace, and vigor which are usually natural gifts, though they may to a great extent be acquired by study and art" (IV, 17-18).

Perhaps having felt that he had gone too far, for the remainder of his Life of Franco, Vasari tries to find things he can praise about Battista's works. So, when Vasari comes to the Duke of Urbino to make his excuses for not having answered a call to paint works for his wedding, he praises Franco's works: "the Duke showed him the chapel painted by Battista, wishing to hear his opinion. Vasari praised it greatly and extolled the ability of the artist, who was liberally rewarded by the duke" (IV, 21). Ultimately, Vasari's position seems to be that in the making of designs, whether for vases [IV, 20] or engravings [IV, 23], Battista Franco "had no peer" [IV, 20] and "his numerous printed designs, which are truly admirable, have given him a great reputation" [IV, 23]. I think that part of Vasari's problem with Franco may be that since Franco and Vasari himself were often competing for the same commissions, Vasari wants to make sure that it be known that Franco is more wedded to older styles, and that great painting "requires grace and charm" (IV, 19], "vivacious and graceful heads" (IV, 19], "executed with ease and the things disposed with judgment, too much effort making them appear hard and crude." [IV, 18]. Himself one of the embodiments of the "stylish style" of Mannerism, Vasari finds Franco's attempts to continue on the heroic vein of Michelangelo's peerless frescoes in the Vatican too threatening professionally, a notion reinforced in his remarks about Tintoretto, whose life is also included in the Life of Battista Franco (IV, 23-26), who would seem to embody all the positive qualities that Vasari finds lacking in Franco, but whom he criticizes because Tintoretto lacks "design and judgment" [IV, 23] even though he "possessed the most stupendous brain that painting has ever known, as we see in all his works and compositions, which differ widely from those of other artists, and he surpassed himself with new and extraordinary inventions, the creations of his intellect, and worked at hazard, without design, as if to show that this art is a trifle. He sometimes left his finished sketches so gross that the pencil-strokes possess more vigor than design and judgment, and seem to have been made by chance" [IV, 23]. Neither design and judgment nor "extraordinary invention" [IV, 23] and facility and speed of execution are enough for greatness, and Vasari faults Franco and Tintoretto for each lacking what the other possesses in abundance.

In his text for Mannerist Prints: International Style in the 16th Century (LA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988), Bruce Davis calls Franco "one of the finest Italian printmakers of the midsixteenth century" and calls for "further study" (p. 328) and now there is, as of 2007, a monographic study of Franco, whose prints are being included in major exhibitions of Sixteenth Century Italian printmaking, itself a much neglected field. Davis complicates Vasari's picture of a single-minded disciple of Michelangelo by noting that Franco has also studied the works of Giulio Romano and Giulio Bonasone and that in the late 1540s, when he was near Mantua, where Giulio Romano was the court artist, Franco etched 4 prints after his designs (p. 83)
Selected Bibliography: For a complete illustrated catalogue of Franco's etchings, see Henri Zerner, The Illustrated Bartsch 32: Italian Artists of the Sixteenth Century School of Fontainebleau (NY: Abaris Books, 1979), pages 156-258; Fabrizio Biferali & Massimo Firpo, Battista Franco "pittore viniziano" nella cultura artistica e nella vita religiosa del Cinquecento (Pisa: Ediziioni della Normale, 2007); Bruce Davis, Mannerist Prints: International Style in the 16th Century (LA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988); Gianvittorio Dillon, "Le incisioni" in Da Tiziano a El Greco. Per la storia del Manierismo a Venezia, 1540-1590 (an exhibition catalogue accompanying a show at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice (Milan: Electra Editrice, 1981), pages 314-318, nos. 142-77; Sue Walsh Reed and Richard Wallace, Italian Etchers of the Renaissance & Baroque (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1989), pages 53-57, nos. 25-27; Lucia Fornari Schianchi, ed. Parmigianino e Il Manierismo Europeo: Atti Del Convegno Internazionale Di Studi Parma,13-15 Giugno 2002 (Milano: Silvana Editoriale, 2002 ); John Shearman, Mannerism (NY: Penguin, 1967, 1973); Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects, 4 vols (London: Everyman's Library, 1963; Vasari's life of Franco can be found in vol. 4, pages 15-23).
An elderly man holding compasses (Bartsch 62ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. Signed in the plate, "Battista Franco fecit." Like the brooding winged figure in Durer's Melencholia, Franco's man with a pair of compasses suggests someone trying to make sense of a world constructed according to number, weight, and measure. Image size: 193x139mm. Price: SOLD.
Roman Warrior offering his hand to a young woman (Bartsch 63). Original etching, c. 1550. The more likely subject of this print is Hector's farewell to Andromache and their son Astyanax before he goes out to battle Achilles and to his death. Inscribed "Battista franco fecit dal antico" bottom center. A very good impression trimmed with small margins on laid paper. Image size: 211x163mm. Price: $4500.
The Abduction of Deianeira. (Bartsch 40 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. Inscribed "Battista franco fece dal antico. Franco forma" bottom left. A very good impression trimmed on or within the platemark on laid paper. Hercules is about to shoot the arrow that will kill the centaur Nessus, who is attempting to carry Hercules' bride away. Before he dies, Nessus will give Deianeira his bloody cloak and tell her that if Hercules' love ever fades, she should give him this cloak. She does and Hercules dies in agony from the blood which is poisonous. When Rubens was in Italy working for the Duke of Mantua, he purchased Franco's original drawing for this etching and worked on it. See Michael Wood, Rubens: Drawing on Italy (Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 2002. Image size: 247x387mm. Price: SOLD.
Bacchantes with Apollo & Daphne (Bartsch 86 i/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the first state of two before the addition of the inscription "Batista franco fecit." Daphne has just been transformed into a laurel tree and a rout of male and female followers of the riots of Bacchus have arrived playing cymbals and biting serpents. The subject of this print is more than mythological. Apollo's desire for Daphne leads to her flight and her prayer than she not be taken by Apollo; her father, the river-god Peneus, transforms her into a laurel tree, which the disappointed Apollo transforms into his reward for poets and conquerors. Before the signature in the plate (state II). Image size: 87x190mm. Price: SOLD.
Old Man Seated before a Statue of a Goddess (Bartsch 88 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A very good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Batista franco fece." It would appear that the old man is about to offer a sacrifice to the goddess before whom he sits. Image size: 76x126mm. Price: $2750.
Antique cameo with a sacrifice of a ram (Bartsch 93 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei antichi." On the left, a nude young man holding a rabbit watches as a warrior sacrifices a ram; on the right, two countrymen watch as a third pours something (wine?) from a skin into a bowl. Image size: 98x165mm. Price: $1750.
Five Subjects after Antique Cameos (Bartsch 94 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei antichi / Batista franco fece." Cameos were objects of great interest in the Renaissance perhaps because they offered a direct link to the lost art and images of the antique world. The Gonzaga dukes had an important collection and Rubens, who was their court artist at the beginning of his career during his stay in Italy, maintained an interest in them even after he returned to the low countries, mentioning in several letters his interesting finds in various places and in the collections of people whom he visited. Classically the designs carved onto cameo stones were either scenes of Greek or Roman mythology or portraits of rulers or important dignitaries. They were very popular in Ancient Rome, and one of the most famous stone cameos from this period is the Gemma Claudia made for the Emperor Claudius. The technique has since enjoyed periodic revivals, notably in the early Renaissance. Image size: 125x157mm. Price: $1750.

The plate is not rectangular, though our photo exaggerates the difference: width of the plate at top = 151mm; width at bottom = 159mm.
Four Subjects after Antique Cameos (Bartsch 83 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei Antichi / Batista franco fece." The orientation of the images on the sheet suggests that these etchings were more for study than for display. The central image offers a view of a combat; at right is a sacrifice in a temple; lower left appears to show the twelfth and final labor of Hercules, here shown with his lion's skin pulling Cerberus (two of whose heads are visible); the scene top left is a mystery to me: it appears to show a seated man about to smash his foot with a large rock. Image size: 145x248mm. Price: $2500.

The plate is not rectangular, though our photo exaggerates the difference: width of the plate at top = 243mm; width at bottom = 247mm.
Various Subjects Drawn after Antique Cameos (Bartsch 81 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A very good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei Antichi / Batista franco fece / Giacomo franco forma." Giacomo Franco was Battista Franco's son whom he trained as a printer and who took over the etching workshop toward the end of his father's career. Once again, the orientation of the images on the sheet suggests that these etchings were more for study than for display. The central image offers an emblem of temperance, adding water from a pitcher to a cup of water; top right we see a youth playing a musical instrument to a listening woman while a bow-less Cupid holds two arrows; top left, we see another scene of mixing liquids together; across the bottom, we see, from left to right, what may be a scene from a bridal, two cupids binding the arms of a woman while a seated figure watches (Venus and Psyche?), an animal being slaughtered and the blood collected in a vessel while another man plays on his pipes; facing away from the other three scenes on this level, a naked man, eyes fixed on a modestly-dressed young woman to his right, has his ear pulled to turn his head away by a large nude female figure, holding a staff, in what may be a presentation of the choice of Hercules between virtue and vice (in Titian's painting of this subject, as Panofsky famously suggested, it is Vice who is clothed (hiding what she is) and Virtue, who has nothing to hide), who is naked. This is the largest in this series of cameos that we purchased. There is another etching printed on the verso which suggests that this may have been a proof set, perhaps to facilitate sales of the etchings or the copper plates themselves. Image size: 197x346mm. Price for B. 81 and B. 85: $3500.

There is another etching on the reverse (see below).
Ten Subjects after Antique Cameos (Bartsch 85 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A very good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei Antichi / Batista franco fece." Interestingly, the 10 subjects here have been laid out as if reading them all together was not just possible but perhaps intended. The central image on the top may show Daedalus, making the wings by which he and his son Icarus were to escape their confinement in the labyrinth that Daedalus had designed to keep the Minotaur apart from the world and thus keep secret his mother's sin and his father's shame; beneath him, sitting on a cloud, and holding what appears to be a scepter, we see what may be his divine analogue, the heavenly maker (a reading that would be consistent with Pico della Mirandola's theory of how we are to interpret allegories). Top left, we see what may be Perseus taming Pegasus; top right we see two putti; bottom left, we see a boar; bottom right we see Hercules, wearing his lion's skin and holding a lyre, perhaps signifying the marriage of strength and harmony and contrasting with the boar, most famous for its bloody slaughter of Adonis. To the left of Zeus, we see a man's head; to the right of Daedalus, we see a women's head in profile; to the right of Zeus, a standing male figure with a torch (which is being adjusted by a putti); to the left of Daedalus, we see a naked young man standing between two columns (associated with fortitude), on top of one of which we see a vase for holding liquids, perhaps in contrast with the fire burning on top of the column by his counterpart below. There is another etching printed on the verso which suggests that this may have been a proof set, perhaps to facilitate sales of the etchings or the copper plates themselves. Image size: 121x283mm. Price for B. 81 and B. 85: $3500.

There is another etching on the reverse (see above).
Composite sheet containing 3 original etchings by Battista Franco: Woman offering an Apple to a Serpent (B. 90 ii/ii); Naked Man holding a Scorpion; a Ram at the Bottom of the Plate (B. 91 ii/ii); Three Subjects after Antique Cameos (B. 92 ii/ii). Sold only as one sheet: $4000.

See below for details of each
Woman offering an Apple to a Serpent (B. 90 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Cameo Anticho." A snake feeding an apple to a woman is a standard image in Christian art, This image, whatever function it might have played in Roman culture, makes a very different kind of sense in a Christian viewer. The wolf standing next to the woman and the serpent shares with the serpent a status as a stand-in for the devil in biblical imagery (especially if pictured, as here, with the Devil's cloven hoofs), as in Jesus' identifying himself as the good shepherd who is not a hireling and will not run off and leave his flock in jeopardy when the wolf comes but will himself die to save them. In Roman iconography, a wolf nursed Romulus and Remus, the cofounders of Rome, yet the destructive power of wolves did not go unavailed in political attacks. Image size: 68x56mm. Price: Sold only with B. 91 and 92 (see above).
Naked Man holding a Scorpion; a Ram at the Bottom of the Plate (B. 91 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Cameo Anticho." This seems the most straightforward of these images: Aquarius the Water-Bearer (January 20-February 18), Aries the Ram (March 21 - April 19), and Scorpio the scorpion (October 23 - November 21) represent 3 of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. As we look more closely, however, we notice that instead of a ram, we are offered a Billy Goat, and instead of the signs of a season, we have a group of non-contiguous signs. If cameos are supposed to entice us to consider mysteries, this one is fulfilling its ordained function too! Image size: 123x59mm. Price: Sold only with B. 90 and 92 (see above).
Three Subjects after Antique Cameos (B. 92 ii/ii). Original etching, c. 1550. A good impression on laid paper of the second state with the addition of the inscription, "Camei Anticho / Batista franco fece." At the top of the plate, a satyr leads not a a donkey (Silenus' normal mode of transport) but a ram upon which a drunken Silenus sits unsteadily; in the middle scene, an older man is bringing a ram and a container of fruits to an unidentifiable woman; at the bottom of the plate, a woman rides a prancing war horse without a saddle (if she were armed, she might be Bellona or one of a number of women warriors). Image size: 215x85mm. Price: Sold only with B. 90 and 91 (see above).

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