Twelve engravings of noble couples dancing. Martin TREU.
Twelve engravings of noble couples dancing.
Twelve engravings of noble couples dancing.
Standing in place, gorgeously dressed

Twelve engravings of noble couples dancing. [Germany], 1541-1543.

12 small engravings (58/60 x 42/44 mm.) of well-dressed couples engaged in courtly dances, all signed with the MT monogram (one with monogram partly effaced), most numbered, fine, dark impressions, trimmed to borders, a few with hairline margins (nos. 1, 7, 9, 10, 12), tipped to three leaves in an album, within neat pen-and ink borders, with tissue guards. No. [6] with possible small restoration in upper blank margin. Modern red morocco gilt, spine gold-tooled and lettered “Martin Treu / Danses de la Renaissance.” Provenance: Friedrich August II, King of Saxony(?): the upper edge of what appears to be his smaller inkstamped mark visible at the foot of most of the engravings (cf. Lugt 170-171, noting that the second sale of duplicates from the collection, held in 1900, included “les petits-maîtres allemands”); “MD,” leather bookplate. ***

A rare suite of Renaissance dance engravings, the first depicting a pair of musicians playing a flute and drum, the rest showing prosperous couples engaged in courtly dances. Included are three engravings not recorded by Hollstein but clearly part of the series.

The name Martin Treu was first associated with the monogrammist MT, active ca. 1540-1543, by J. F. Christ in his Dictionnaire des Monogrammes (1750). Although no evidence has emerged for this identification, the name has stuck. This artist belonged to the second generation of “Little Masters,” a picturesque term for several engravers who produced minuscule prints, from the size of a postage card to that of a playing card. Our artist was of the generation succeeding the most famous representatives of this school, Sebald and Barthel Beham and Georg Pencz; his work has been compared to that of Heinrich Aldegrever, active in Westphalia.

This series of well-dressed couples dancing demurely (several appear to be standing still) contrasts markedly with a complementary set of engravings, ascribed to the same Master MT (though stylistically rather different), showing 12 peasant couples dancing rowdily (Hollstein, Treu 26-36).

Here we see women in high-waisted and low-bodiced gowns, with long waist-ribbons, translucent cambrics covering their bosoms, and double or triple-puffed long sleeves, wearing caps or coifs, one with a feathered hat, and necklaces. Some lift outer skirts bearing short trains, a few hold flowers, and one (no. 4), appears to be pregnant. Their partners are exuberantly dressed, showing no signs of the Protestant sobriety that was to influence men’s fashion by the middle of the century. They wear doublets, pleated knee-length breeches, ornate sleeves, and delicate dancing-shoes; some wear cloaks or capes, and most sport caps, though several are bare-headed. All but one carry swords at their waists. Only one gentleman lifts a leg more than an inch off the ground. Most look intent on the dance (although one tries to snatch a kiss). These are serious people.

Hollstein records 12 engravings, numbered 1 to 14, with no numbers 9 or 11 (a plate numbered 15, Hollstein 26, is actually part of the peasant dance series). Three of our engravings are not in Hollstein, and absent from this set are Hollstein nos. 20, 23 and 25. Three others represent unrecorded states.

Contents:
1, dated 1543: Hollstein 14 (only state)
2, 1543: Hollstein 15 (only state)
3, 1543: Hollstein 16 (only state)
4, 1541: Hollstein 17, state 2
5, 1543: Hollstein 18, state 1
6, no date: Hollstein 24, unrecorded state, with the date deleted, and the number 6 incompletely rubbed out.
[7] unnumbered, 1542: not in Hollstein
8, 1543: Hollstein 21, state 2
[9], 1542: Hollstein 19, unrecorded state without numbering
[10], unnumbered, 1542: Not in Hollstein
[11], 1542: Hollstein 22, unrecorded state without numbering
1[2], the 2 of the number added in early ink, 1542: Not in Hollstein

I locate no copies in American museums or libraries. Hollstein, German Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts 1400-1700, vol. XCV (2019), Treu no. 14-25 (but see above); Bartsch, Le Peintre Graveur IX: 68-78; Nagler, Künstler Lexikon 19: 74-78.
Item #4186

Price: $12,500.00

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