GIOVANNI BATTISTA FRANCO

ca. 1510 - Venice - 1561

The Adoration of the Shepherds ca. 1552


engraving and etching; 375 x 510 mm (14 3/4 x 20 1/16 inches)

Bartsch, vol. 16, p. 121, no. 8; Passavant, vol. 6, p. 178; Lauder 112 second state (of four)

WATERMARK
anchor in circle (similar to Briquet 523 and 532)

A superbly printed impression of the earliest-known state of the print (see below); in very good condition.

This print dates from Franco’s mature period and was probably made soon after his return from Rome to Venice in 1552. The composition betrays the influences of Michelangelo and Jacopino del Conte; Franco studied the work of both artists during his Roman sojourn in the 1540s in the Sistine Chapel and in the Oratorio di San Giovanni Decollato (for the latter Franco painted the scene of John the Baptist being taken captive). The artist’s last commission in Rome was the decoration of the Capella Gabrielli in the Dominican church of Sta. Maria sopra Minerva on which he began work in the summer of 1550. One of the scenes depicts an Adoration of the Shepherds and the postures, especially those of some of the shepherds in the right half of the print do indeed resemble, in reverse, those on the left side of the fresco (cf. Anne Varick Lauder, Inventaire g.n.ral des dessins italiens [du Mus.e de Louvre], vol. 8: Battista Franco, Paris 2009; pp. 33–36, the frescoill. p. 34, fig. 9).

Passavant surmised a hypothetical first state of the print without the artist’s initials of which no impression is known. Impressions of the present state are exceedingly rare: we have been able to trace five impressions in public collections (British Museum, London [2]; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles County Museum; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The third state mentions Franco as the publisher of the plate (Franco forma). In the posthumous final state the plate shows signs of wear, has been retouched, and a dedication to Goisefo Sabbatini has been added.