Rhetoric; a female armed warrior wearing a crown and holding a sword, flanked by two winged children blowing horns
[Northern Italy], before 1467
This print belongs to the first version (conventionally designated E-series) of a group of fifty engravings known as the “Tarocchi Cards of Mantegna” – despite being neither true tarocchi nor related to Mantegna. “Rhetorica” is one of ten images in the third group of the set (marked with the letter C and numbered 21-30) personifying ten “Liberal Arts”: the classical seven known as the trivium (Grammar, Dialectic or Logic, Rhetoric) and quadrivium (Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Astronomy or Astrology), raised to ten by the addition of Poetry, Philosophy and Theology. Many critics place the “Tarocchi” among the most important of the incunabula of printmaking in Italy. It appears that the fifty matrices were repeatedly struck, without alterations, perhaps over a period of twenty or thirty years, during which various colours of ink were employed: grey, bluish green, greenish grey, greenish brown, with the ink always watery and thin in quality, often with enhancements in gold. The present impression is softly printed in a delicate grey ink. It was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in November 1897 (Henry Foster Sewall bequest), and deaccessioned in 1918, since when it has been in private collections.