(Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1472). 300 x 219 mm. (and one slightly narrower). (11 3/4 x 8 1/2"). Single column, 40 lines to the page, roman type.
Mounted with archival tape and matted. One leaf with two two-line initials painted in blue, and EACH LEAF WITH A BEAUTIFULLY DRAWN INITIAL BY THE MASTER OF THE PUTTI, measuring 48 mm. tall and done in a light brown ink wash with blue shadowing, FEATURING A THREE-DIMENSIONAL INHABITATION by various classical figures, including A SATYR, A ROMAN SOLDIER, A PUTTO WITH A DOG, OR A MERMAN. See: Lilian Armstrong, "Renaissance Miniature Painters & Classical Imagery. The Master of the Putti & his Venetian Workshop." The leaves probably washed (judging from the faintness of a few annotations), a little light foxing (a bit heavier in one example), one leaf with a thin dampstain affecting a few lines of text, another leaf with a small marginal repair, but THE INITIALS PERFECTLY PRESERVED, and the leaves fresh and bright, with their charm almost entirely undiminished.
The delightful initials that grace these incunabular leaves can be definitively attributed to the Master of the Putti, an artist who was active in Venice at the advent of printing there in 1469 and who is said to have worked until 1473. According to Armstrong, "The Putti Master's work is always dominated by the harmonious relationship of the pictorial image to the letters of the page of text." His style can be further identified through his use of "littera mantiniana" initials, in which the letter forms are sculpted or beveled to appear three dimensional, and his use of Roman motifs, rendered "in a vigorously 'antique' style." As can be seen in the present leaves, he also favored single figures (satyr, soldier, etc.) over scenic treatment, in the embellishment of initials. Although the Master occasionally worked in color, the vast majority of his initials are drawn in ink and sepia wash, with occasional single-color highlights, a style clearly influenced by the grisaille miniaturists of the Medieval period. Aesthetically, this technique was well suited for the new print medium. As Armstrong notes, "The pen and ink drawings delicately enliven . . . [the] page, instead of standing in sharp contrast to it. The combination of sensitive decoration and classical imagery appealed to the purchasers of the magnificently printed Latin texts, and must have been the basis for the artist's success." Armstrong says that our Master embellished manuscripts for the Venetian aristocracy and had a special relationship with the printer Nicolaus Jenson, for whom she says he illustrated 15 books. The present leaves are part of this collaboration, being from a copy of the first edition of Macrobius' commentary on Cicero's "Dream of Scipio." Printed volumes with Putti Master decoration almost never appear on the market, and when they do, these particular artistic enhancements (when combined with the early printing dates of the books they enliven), result in extraordinarily high prices. The present leaves offer a special opportunity to acquire work that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive. (ST15435)
1,800 to $2,500
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