Large folio (498 x 364 mm). 5, [1 blank] pages, engraved arms of the dedicatee Stanislas Potocki, engraved initial and tail-piece; 89 etchings printed in sanguine, by Carlo Antonini after Salvator Rosa, on 36 leaves, of which the last four full-sheet and folding, text and plates printed on thick paper watermarked with a fleur-de-lys in a double circle above initial B (Heawood 1600). An excellent copy, the etchings in deep, clear impressions (small black smudges on first folding plate, a few pale spots from damp to the other folding plates). Original parchment-backed pink pastepaper-covered boards, spine gold-tooled and -lettered “Rosa” (spine worn and torn, corners rubbed).***
Only Edition, issue with title and printed dedication and the engravings printed in sanguine, of a magnificent suite of etchings after the Neapolitan Baroque artist Salvator (or Salvatore) Rosa.
Testifying to his popularity over a century after his death, Antonini’s etchings are precise reproductions, in the same direction and size, of Rosa’s complete etched oeuvre. Rosa, who also acted, and probably wrote verse, epitomized the artist-poet, two centuries before the Romantic movement swept Europe. Perpetually pushing the limits of the genres he painted, his landscapes and dramatic battle scenes were swathed in a faintly oppressive mystery. His earliest experiments in printmaking date to 1660, late in his career. He completed 85 or 86 etchings. Rosa was keenly concerned with maintaining control of his production and ownership of his plates, and he supervised the printing and marketing of the prints, and their distribution to dealers north of the Alps (probably through the firm of Giovanni Giacomo Rossi). Rosa used his prints as a vehicle for advertising his skills, and even tried to sell paintings through his etchings before creating them (cf. Griffiths, p. 260). One aspect of Rosa’s strategic self-marketing was his discipline in selling his prints as series, and most collections of his etchings, in so-called “Rosa albums,” mirror the contents of this album, with the series arranged in the same order.
The plates were kept in Rosa’s family, and deposited in the eighteenth century in the Calcografia Apostolica. The resulting scarcity of available impressions left the public unsatisfied; hence the production of imitations, copies and piracies, which made their way into European collections. Some inferior copies were later mistaken for Rosa’s originals (which may have negatively distorted his artistic reputation). In contrast, Carlo Antonini here presents his luxuriously printed series honestly, as copies for the use of amateurs of design and students of art. His skills as a reproductive engraver allowed him to reproduce the overall impact of Rosa’s etchings, from the small figurine of soldiers in their everyday life to the vast, dreamlike etchings of historical or mythological scenes.
Dedicated to the Polish count and art collector Stanislaw Kostka Potocki, who was living in Rome in 1780, the album contains the 62 small etchings of the Figurine series (mostly four to a page), 6 other small prints (two to a page) of Tritons and River Gods, and 13 full-page and 4 full-sheet etchings, arranged in order of size, which include his most famous etchings: Jason and the Dragon; Albert, disciple of St. William of Maleval; Glaucus and Scylla; Apollo and the Cumaean Sibyl; Ceres and Phytalos; St. William of Maleval; the Dream of Aeneas, Alexander in the Studio of Apelles; Diogenes casting away his bowl; Democritus in Meditation; Diogenes and Alexander; The Academy of Plato; the Genius of Salvator Rosa; The Rescue of the Infant Oedipus; The Fall of the Giants; The Crucifixion of Polycrates; and The Death of Atilius Regulus, showing him being nailed into a tub by the Carthaginians. The last 10 plates include engraved captions.
The suite was also issued without text, with the plates printed in black. It is thus often catalogued under the title of the first etching, Salvatoris Rosa Varia et concinna delineamenta. The last four full-sheet prints are sometimes bound with the centerfold hinged to a guard.
Copies of this issue in the US are held by the Frick, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morgan Library, Boston Athenaeum, Houghton, National Gallery of Art, Free Library and CA State (Sacramento); copies of the prints without text are at the Getty, Mills College, and UVa.
Bartsch, XX.279.25 (copy); The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary 4512, Appendix, no. IX, p.431 (copies); cf. Thieme-Becker 29:1 (Rosa) and 1:576 (Antonini); A. Griffiiths, “On Some Albums of Etchings by Salvator Rosa,” Print Quarterly, 9, no. 3 (1992): 251–260. JC. Hartley, "On Compiling an Album of Etchings by Salvator Rosa," Print Quarterly 9, no. 3 (1992): 260-67. Item #4054