Engraving by J. Vivares after the drawing by Raphael View larger
Engraving by J. Vivares after the drawing by Raphael

“One of the most sumptuous books on the fine arts ever produced” (John Gere)

Ottley (William Young), 1771-1836

The Italian School of Design: being a series of fac-similes of original drawings, by the most eminent painters and sculptors of Italy; with biographical notices of the artists, and observations on their works

London, Printed for the Author, by J. McCreery, and published by Taylor and Hessey, [1808]-1823
A beautiful work reproducing in facsimile eighty-four drawings in the author’s own collection, all that appeared of an arduous attempt to provide “a chronological sequence of the designs of the most eminent artists of Italy”. The sheets represent the work of some two dozen artists ranging in date from the 14th to the 17th centuries, among whom Michelangelo and Raphael feature predominantly (nearly half of the plates reproduce their drawings). “The eighty-odd plates, some of which Ottley engraved himself… are tours de force of facsimile engraving; never, even with the most elaborate mechanical processes, have drawings been more faithfully reproduced… It is indeed one of the most sumptuous books on the fine arts ever produced” (J.A. Gere).
Subjects
Book illustration - Reproductive printmaking - Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564
Book illustration - Reproductive printmaking - Raphael, 1483-1520
Authors/Creators
Ottley, William Young, 1771-1836
Artists/Illustrators
Bartolozzi, Gaetano Stefano, 1757-1821
Claussen, Ignace Joseph de, 1795-1844
Godby, James, active 1790-1820
Lewis, Frederick Christian, 1779-1856
Lewis, George Robert, 1782-1871
Ottley, William Young, 1771-1836
Romney, John, 1786-1863
Schiavonetti, Luigi, 1765-1810
Vendramini, Giovanni, 1769-1839
Vivarès, Thomas, 1744-1827
Printers/Publishers
Hessey, James Augustus, active 1806-1825
McCreery, John, active 1785-1825
Taylor, John Edward, active 1806-1825
Other names
Buonarroti, Michelangelo, 1475-1564
Lawrence, Thomas, 1769-1830
Raphael, 1483-1520
Selenka, Philipp, 1803-1850

Ottley, William Young
Dunstan Park, Thatcham 1771 – 1836 London

The Italian School of Design: being a series of fac-similes of original draw­ings, by the most eminent painters and sculptors of Italy; with biographical notices of the artists, and observations on their works.

London, Printed for the Author, by J. McCreery… and published by Taylor and Hessey, [1808–] 1823

folio (560 × 410 mm), (43) ff. letterpress, unsigned, paginated (1–8) (title-page; dedication To the Royal Academy…; Advertise­ment; A list of the plates in this work), 1–72 (6), with thirteen etched head-pieces and illustrations printed with the text; plus eighty-four plates.

Occasional spotting; otherwise a fine copy.

bound in russia leather, gilt; engraved ticket on white paper Gebunden bei Ph. Selenka in Wiesbaden.

A beautiful work reproducing in facsimile eighty-four drawings in the author’s own collection, all that appeared of an arduous attempt to provide ‘a chronological sequence of the designs of the most eminent artists of Italy’. The sheets represent the work of some two dozen artists ranging in date from the 14th to the 17th centuries, among whom Michelangelo and Raphael feature predominantly (nearly half of the plates reproduce their drawings). Twelve printmakers utilised a variety of techniques, including stipple engraving, aquatint, soft-ground etching, black chalk manner, red chalk manner, and crayon manner, in copying the drawings.

‘The eighty-odd plates, some of which Ottley engraved himself… are tours de force of facsimile engraving; never, even with the most elaborate mechanical processes, have drawings been more faithfully reproduced… It is indeed one of the most sumptuous books on the fine arts ever produced’.1

Raphael’s ‘Combat of nude men’, etched by J. Vivares. The drawing passed from Ottley to Sir Thomas Lawrence to the Ashmolean Museum (Parker 552)

Giulio Romano’s ‘The Birth of Bacchus’, etched by W.Y. Ottley (aquatinted by G.R. Lewis). The drawing passed from Ottley to Sir Thomas Lawrence to Lord Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, and was sold by his descendants at Sotheby’s, 5 December 1972, lot 64. The sheet is now in the Getty Museum (95.GA.27)

The full-page plates reproduce drawings by an anonymous Greek of the 9th century, Cimabue, Giotto (two plates),2 Donatello (two), Fra Filippo Lippi, Mantegna, Luca Signorelli, Leonardo,3 Fra Bartolommeo (two), Michelangelo (twelve),4 Andrea del Sarto, Domenico Beccafumi, Baccio Bandinelli, Raphael (twenty-three), Giulio Romano (two), Polidoro da Caravaggio (two), Giorgione da Castelfranco, Correggio, Parmigianino (two), Bartolommeo Passarotti, Lodovico Carracci (two), Annibale Carracci, Gregorio Pagani, Nicolas Poussin (two), Gaspard Dughet, Claude Lorrain (two), and Salvator Rosa. The illustrations printed with the text reproduce works attributed to Nicola Pisano, Giunta Pisano, Cimabue, Giotto, Donatello, Mantegna, Signorelli, Fra Bartolommeo, Michelangelo (two), Raphael, Giulio Romano and Correggio.

The printmakers were the author himself, Gaetano Stefano Bartolozzi (1757–1821), Ignace Joseph de Claussen (1795–1844), Frederick Christian Lewis (1779-1856), George Robert Lewis (1782–1871), William Long, J. Perry, John Romney (1786-1863), Luigi Schiavonetti (1765–1810), J. Vivares, Thomas Vivares (1744–1827), and Giovanni Vendramini (1769–1839). One of the Raphael plates is signed by Carlo Cencioni as intermediary draughtsman. The in-text illustrations are signed as engravers by the author, James Godby (fl. 1790–1815), and Thomas Vivares.

A marchand-amateur, Ottley routinely consigned drawings to the auction sale rooms, and in June 1814 he sold his ‘entire Cabinet of original drawings’ (Lugt 8533) under the protection of strong reserves. In February 1823 Ottley again sold ‘his entire cabinet’, this time by private treaty, to Sir Thomas Lawrence. A large number of Ottley’s drawings by Raphael and Michelangelo have passed into the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford;5 others have entered British Museum.6

The work was issued in parts, commencing in 1808 or 1809,7 and was abandoned after publication of the third part (forty-one plates) in 1823,8 when the parts were gathered and reissued as a single volume.9 Purchasers could choose between two papers: super royal folio (priced £12 12s), or colombier folio (£18 18s), with proofs of the prints on the latter paper (£25 4s).10

This copy was bound by Philipp Selenka (1803–1850) of Wiesbaden, brother of Johann Jacob Selenka (1801–1871), Hofbuchbinder in Braunschweig.11

reference Rudolph Weigel, Die Werke der Maler in ihren Handzeichnungen: Beschreibendes Verzeichniss der in Kupfer gestochenen, lithographirten und photographirten Facsimiles von Originalzeichnungen grosser Meister (Leipzig 1865), pp.71–72 no. 103

Signed binding by Philipp Selenka (engraved ticket on white paper Gebunden bei Ph. Selenka in Wiesbaden)

1. J.A. Gere, ‘William Young Ottley as a collector of drawings’ in The British Museum Quarterly 18 (no. 2, June 1953), p.45. See further on the sources of Ottley’s drawings, R.W. Schekker, ‘The case of the stolen Raphael drawings’ in Master Drawings 11 (1973) pp.119–137.

2. Roberto Salvini, Giotto: bibliografia (Rome 1938), p.77 no. 167.

3. Ettore Verga, Bibliografia Vinciana (Bologna 1931), i, p.138 no. 340.

4. Ernst Steinmann and Rudolf Wittkower, Michelangelo bibliographie 1510–1926 (Leipzig 1927), p.271 no. 1424.

5. See K. T. Parker, Catalogue of the collection of drawings in the Ashmolean Museum. Volume 2: Italian schools (Oxford 1956), identifying drawings from the Ottley collections associated with Raphael or his studio; and Paul Joannides, The Drawings of Michelangelo and his Followers in the Ashmolean Museum (Cambridge 2007), identifying some fifty drawings ex-Ottley, of which five had been reproduced in his The Italian School of Design (Joannides nos. 11, 24, 29, 33, 91).

6. See Philip Pouncey and J.A. Gere, Italian drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Raphael and his circle (London 1962), especially nos. 1, 3, 5 (these drawings repro­duced in The Italian School of Design); and Johannes Wilde, Italian drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum: Michelangelo and his Studio (London 1953), nos. 11, 29, 34, 57, 60, 91 (of these no. 34 was reproduced in The Italian School of Design).

7. The Critical Review: or, Annals of Literature, third series, 17 (1809), p.336: ‘Books published in July 1809’: ‘Number i. 1[£]. 1s. Continued every two months’; James Savage, The Librarian, Being an Account of Scarce, Valuable, and Useful English Books (1809), iii, p.96: ‘Books published in July, 1809’; The Monthly Magazine; or, British Register 28 (1 August 1809), p.68: ‘Monthly Retrospect of the Fine Arts’.

8. Prospectus (6 pp., with drop-title:) This day is published, in colombier folio, part iii, containing 41 plates… of The Italian school of design: being a series of fac-similes of original drawings by the most eminent painters and sculptors of Italy: with biographical notices of the artists, and observations on their works… Published by Taylor and Hessey, 13, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, and 93, Fleet Street, [1823] ● New York, Grolier Club Library, Call Number *34.52L1411810.

9. The Eclectic Review, new series, 20 (August 1823), p.191: ‘List of works recently published’: ‘Complete in one volume, super royal folio. 12[£]. 12s. in colombier folio, 18[£]. 18s. and proofs, 24 guineas’. The dates of issue of the intermediate parts can not be determined; cf. The Universal Magazine of Knowl­edge and Pleasure, new series, 17 (no. 103, June 1812), p.488 (‘the resumption is here noticed’).

10. The publication history of the work is recounted in an ‘Advertisment’ placed among the preliminaries: ‘the work now offered to the public in its finished state, was commenced in the year 1808 by Subscription, in Numbers, each containing four and occasionally five plates, at the price of one Guinea. As soon as five Numbers had appeared, it was judged convenient in future to sell them joined together… under the appellation of Part i; and four years afterwards the publication of Part ii, consisting of five more numbers, took place… the work, although it was at first intended to extend to fifty numbers, is now brought to a close, by the delivery of Part iii…’. The three parts appeared in 1809, about 1813, 1823.

11. Two bindings by Philipp Selenka in the Fürstlich Waldecksche Hofbibliothek, Arolsen, are descri­bed by Rudolf-Alexander Schütte and Konrad Wiedemann, Einbandkunst vom frühmittelalter bis Jugendstil aus den Bibliotheken in Kassel und Arolsen, Universitätsbibliothek Kassel (Kassel 2002), p.54 no. 68 and Abb. 51 (on R.W. Plumer, Tremaine, or the man of refinement, London 1835) and no. 70 (Eduard und Kunigunde, Frankfurt am Main: Frebs, c. 1840). He was a specialist ‘Portefeuillear­beiter’; see Hektor Rössler, Ausführlicher Bericht über die von dem Gewerbverein für das Großher­zogthum Hessen im Jahre 1842 veranstaltete Allgemeine deutsche Industrie-Ausstellung zu Mainz (Darmstadt 1843), p.240.

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