Disegni del Mantegna
Venice, [Publisher not named], c. 1796-1799
A rare suite of forty-seven prints reproducing drawings of putti playing or fighting, all’antica heads, and studies of the Virgin and Child, once attributed to Andrea Mantegna, now recognized as works of Marco Zoppo (1432/3-1478). The drawings – then in an album in the possession of the printmaker’s father, the Venetian painter Pietro Antonio Novelli, and since 1920 in the British Museum – were commissioned by an unknown patron, presumably with humanistic interests, as there are witty references to antiquity. The elusive meaning of some of the drawings and discreet homosexual imagery in others “suggests a commission where the patron had a hand in providing some of the subject matter, the significance of which may have been understood only by a small circle of friends” (Hugo Chapman). Our impressions are all “proofs before letters”.