Illustrium iureconsultorum imagines quae inveniri potuerunt, ad vivam effigiem expressae. Ex musaeo Marci Mantuae Benevidij Patavinij iureconsulti clarissimi. Domenico ZENOI, artist.
Illustrium iureconsultorum imagines quae inveniri potuerunt, ad vivam effigiem expressae. Ex musaeo Marci Mantuae Benevidij Patavinij iureconsulti clarissimi.
Illustrium iureconsultorum imagines quae inveniri potuerunt, ad vivam effigiem expressae. Ex musaeo Marci Mantuae Benevidij Patavinij iureconsulti clarissimi.
Illustrium iureconsultorum imagines quae inveniri potuerunt, ad vivam effigiem expressae. Ex musaeo Marci Mantuae Benevidij Patavinij iureconsulti clarissimi.
Portraits for the people

Illustrium iureconsultorum imagines quae inveniri potuerunt, ad vivam effigiem expressae. Ex musaeo Marci Mantuae Benevidij Patavinij iureconsulti clarissimi. Venice: Donato Bertelli, 1569.

Half-sheet 4to (235 x 170 mm). 26 leaves of engravings by Domenico Zenoi, comprising title, portrait of Francesco Ferdinando d’Ávalos, and 24 numbered plates (platemarks approx. 143 x 108 mm.) of oval portraits of jurists within ornamental strapwork borders of which a few incorporating grotesque faces, printed on one side only of each sheet so that the portraits face each other; plates 11 and 12 misimposed in reverse order. Small surface abrasions to plates 9 and 10, wax(?) stains on verso of pl. 22 and in outer margin of pl. 23, variable mainly marginal staining and soiling. Late 19th-century calf-backed marbled boards, spine gilt lettered.

Only edition, first issue, of a series of engraved portraits of Italian jurists from the 13th century to modern times, based on portraits (probably painted) in the collection of the Paduan jurist, humanist, legal theorist, and art collector Marco Mantova Benavides (1489-1582).

From a Sephardic Jewish family, the son and brother of physicians, Mantova Benavides devoted his long life to the study and teaching of jurisprudence.  He taught in Padua for over sixty years, and was a man of great culture, a prolific writer not only of legal treatises but also of moral works and poetry. He possessed a large library and corresponded with the likes of Bembo, Aretino, and Cosimo de’Medici. But his greatest love was art, as both collector of antiquities and patron of contemporary artists, both Paduan and “foreign.” His large palazzo, built circa 1540 and decorated by the Florentine architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati, included a studiolo and a three-room art gallery, whose contents were described in detail in an exhaustive Inventario published in 1695 by his descendent Andrea Mantova Benavides.  Among his many collections was a series of portraits of illustrious jurists, reproduced in part here.

The Venetian goldsmith and engraver Domenico Zenoi (or Zenoni) received in December 1566 a 15-year privilege from the Venetian Senate (cited on the title), to publish devotional prints, maps, and portraits. Within less than two years he was fined for dealing in obscene prints, but he continued producing maps, prints and print series in partnership with several Venetian publishers, including Donato Bertelli, until about 1580. (Bury, p. 172, notes that the attribution of a publishing privilege to an engraver demonstrated the lack of a clear distinction at the time between printmakers and publishers.) 

Set within ornamental borders of scrolls and volutes, the 24 engraved portraits are smaller versions of a series of unsigned engravings (tentatively attributed to Enea Vico) published in folio format by Antoine Lafréry in Rome in 1566 under the same title. Evidently Zenoi and Bertelli saw a commercial opportunity in disseminating their own more accessible version of the larger, more polished, and no doubt expensive Lafréry suite. Zenoi appears however to have had his own direct relationship with the collector. Clearly the present series met with success (as witnessed by the scarcity of extant copies), upon which common sense dictated building by producing a sequel: the following year the Venetian print publisher Bolognino Zaltieri published a further series of engravings by Zenoi, in a larger format without borders, reproducing other portraits of jurists in Mantova Benavides’ collection. Although it has been called a sequel to the Lafréry collection (cf., for example, Jugler), the 1570 suite was an independent and original work, with no known connection to Lafréry. Zenoi also contributed some of the plates to a series of engravings of famous rulers, published by Zaltieri in 1568, and reissued anonymously in 1570. These were apparently also based on art works in the same collection. (Jöcher, Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, I:948, states that Mantova Benavides “published” or sponsored the series.)

Dedicated to the banker and art patron Johann Jakob Fugger, the suite comprises an architectural title with allegorical figures of Prudence and Virtue, a portrait of Francesco Ferdinando d’Ávalos (ca. 1530-1571), commander of the Spanish army in Lombardy and Piedmont (conflated in the caption with the Duke of Alba), and 24 portraits of Italian lawyers, from Accursius Florentinus (portrait dated 1236) to Mariano Sozzini (portrait dated 1555). Like the Lafréry engravings, all contain captions identifying the subject and all but one (Alciati) the date the portrait was made. All but six are in reverse in relation to the Lafréry series, and the portraits for numbers 18 (Francesco Il Corte) and 19 (Antonio Francesco Dottori) are switched. Included are such famous jurists as Andrea Alciati, Bartolus de Saxoferrato, and Baldus de Ubaldis.

The Zenoi edition was reissued in 1579, the date being altered in the title plate. I locate six institutional copies: U. Chicago, V&A, British Museum, Bib. Marciana, Bib. Comunale in Treviso, Bib. Civica Bertoliana in Vicenza, and Natl. Library of Scotland (the last two being the 1579 issue).

EDIT-16 CNCE 71743; British Museum Collections (online database) 1923,0612.6.1-25. Cf. Johann Friedrich Jugler, Beyträge zur juristischen Biographie, vol. 6 (Leipzig 1780),  pp. 42-43; Michael Bury, The Print in Italy 1550-1620, (London 2001), p. 172. On the collection of Mantova Benavides, cf. Favaretto, L’Arte Antica e Cultura nelle collezioni Venete al tempo della Serenissima (Rome, 1990), pp. 108-114.

Item #4074

Price: $14,000.00

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