1519/20 – Antwerp – 1570
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Victory Surrounded by Prisoners and Trophies 1552
etching; 316 x 437 mm (12 7/16 x 17 3/16 inches) Hollstein 4; The New Hollstein 156 second state (of three)
unidentified collector’s mark (Lugt 4073)
Konrad Oberhuber, Das Zeitalter von Bruegel und Bellange, exhibition catalogue, Albertina, Vienna, 1967–68 (Die Kunst der Graphik, vol. 4), no. 102
C van de Velde, Frans Floris 1519/20–1570): Leven en Werken, Brussels 1975, no. 30
Joris van Grieken/Ger Luijten/Jan van der Stock (eds.), Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print, exhibition catalogue, Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels/Fondation Custodia, Paris, 2013, no. 86 (entry by Edward Wouk)
Catherine Jenkins/Nadine Orenstein/Freyda Spira, The Renaissance of Etching, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York/Albertina Museum, Vienna, 2019–20, no. 119
A fine impression; three small, locally repaired tears in the left and bottom margins but the sheet overall untreated; otherwise in very good condition; trimmed within the platemark but retaining a fillet of blank paper outside the borderline in most places.
The image of Victoria surrounded by weapons and trophies as well as by the dead bodies of the enemies and chained prisoners echoes a painting that was prominently displayed on the triumphal arch of the State of Genoa. It was one of the festive decorations created by Frans Floris for the entry of Charles V and his son, the future Philip II, into Antwerp in 1549. While the painting, like virtually all ephemeral decorations of this kind, does not survive, its appearance is documented by two written accounts and also by a small Jost Amman woodcut. In the latter, both, trophies and prisoners, are distinguished by looking visibly Turkish. Such characterization is toned down and generalized in Floris’s etching. It is interesting to note, however, that the text that hung next to Floris’ painting was composed of passages from Vergil’s Aeneid, whereas the six lines below the print, probably provided by the Genoese merchant and poet Stephano Schiappalaria, are a far more explicit plea by the Genoese to the Emperor to uphold his struggle against the Ottomans by land and by sea. The relation between specificity and universality with regards to the image/text combination is hence reversed in the print.
“This tour de force etching [is] Floris’s only known autograph print” (Edward Wouk). The imposing image is signed with the artist’s full name in the lower left corner and marks the beginning of a tradition where Flemish artists who were predominantly active as painters also make one fully autograph print. To do so, they use the technique of etching since, unlike burin engraving, it did not require an extensive technical training; the artist could draw on a prepared printing plate by handling a stylus the same way as a drawing pen. The other two great painters who provided numerous designs for professional engravers but did not make more than a single print themselves are Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Rubens. And both of those, Bruegel’s The Rabbit Hunt (1560) and Rubens’ St. Catherine of Alexandria (ca. 1620), are etchings.
By giving his name, Floris advertises his artistic acumen, which he impressively demonstrates by filling the compressed space around the imposing central figure of Victoria with a multitude of writhing nudes that were inspired by Roman friezes as well as by the ignudi and hundreds of other muscular figures that can be found in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescos (the many different sources are traced in detail by Wouk in The New Hollstein). As Nadine Orenstein points out, Floris’ print thereby makes “a powerful statement about the artist’s authority as an interpreter of both the antique and modern art of Italy.” And in the sober words of our Neue Lagerliste 53 from 1969 (no. 33), it represents “ein wichtiges Dokument des Italianismus in den südlichen Niederlanden.”