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Aeneas and the Sybil in the Underworld
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Aeneas and the Sybil in the Underworld
The Master of the Aeneid Series (enameller)
Copper, enamelled in polychrome and gilded with a scene showing Aeneas and the Cumaean Sybil in the Underworld.
Slightly convex copper plaque, enamelled in translucent greyish-blue, dark blue, green, mulberry-brown and clear appearing tan, and in semi-translucent pinkish-red, and opaque white and profusely gilded. There is a white preparation under the areas enamelled in greyish-blue, white and pale red. The drawing appears black on the copper or the white preparation. The translucent colours are applied directly over the copper (clearly visible where there is loss of enamel on the edge and elsewhere under magnification). Water is represented by a thin wash of translucent greyish-blue over white with black lines to represent waves. The reverse has brownish translucent counter-enamel, tinged here and there with green. The Cumaean Sybil, labelled '(SY)BILLA', and Aeneas, labelled 'ENEAS', stand in the top left corner. At top centre is a label 'I.ET.VII' beside the bell-tower of a flaming tripple-walled castle with a green many-headed Hydra guarding its gates which occupies the top left corner.Outside the walls there is a man bound to a waterwheel, and three men's heads emerging from a mill pond. On the wall above the wheel is a label inscribed 'TI.ION' (?ILION - Troy). Below Aeneas is a label inscribed 'TISIPHONE' beneath which she and another Fury holding snakes, are beating four almost nude men bound to a tree, and another man who leans forward over a devil who is stabbing two men lying on the ground. Below to the right are two men prone, one upwards and one downwards, on a bed of nails, and further to the right, three being cooked in a cauldron attended by a green devil. In the middle, Rhadamanthus, labelled 'FASAMANI9', robed and holding a sceptre, sits on a stool, and behind him on the ground, is a seated man with his right arm raised. A gold chain divides these figures from those below. In the lower left corner, a young man is seated at a table covered by a white cloth and laid for a meal. A bird with a female head stands opposite to him on the table. In the middle three men are seated on the ground , two of them holding a jug. In the lower right corner is a label inscribed 'TITVS' over a vulture which is pecking the thorax of Tityus, who is encircled by a gold chain. Gold is used lavishly for the hair of the figures, outlining of features, and shading.
This is one of a series of eighty-two recorded plaques after the woodcut illustrations to Books I to IX of the Aeneid in Sebastian Brandt's edition of Virgil's 'Opera', printed by Johann Grüninger in Strasburg in 1502 (a copy is in the Cambridge University Library, Tb.51.61). The subject on this plaque is from Book VI, and was copied from the woodcut on fol. 274 recto. It shows Aeneas with the Cumaen Sibyl who was guiding him through the Underworld to see his father, when they reached a point where the path divided, one branch leading to Elysium, and the other to Tartarus where various souls are in torment. For listings of the plaques, see Documentation.
The Master of the Aeneid Plaques has remained an enigma, although some scholars have considered that he might be Jean I Pénicaud. Very few other enamels have been attributed to him on the basis of features which occur in the Aeneid plaques, such as a distinctive way of rendering clouds. These including a Crucifixion after Lucas van Leyden in the Victoria & Albert Museum inv. no. 2820-1926, a Crucifixion after Dürer. formerly in the Givenchy Collection (see Documention, Descheemaecker), and an Adoration of the Magi acquired by the Musée municipal de l’Évêché, Limoges in 2006, which has a leaf of silver over the entire surface beneath the enamelling.
Limoges (enameller) (place)
Haute Vienne (enameller) (region)
France (enameller) (country)
French (enameller) (nationality)
copper enamelled in translucent greyish-blue, dark blue, green, mulberry-brown and clear appearing tan, and in semi-translucent pinkish-red, and opaque white and profusely gilded. There is a white preparation under the areas enamelled in greyish-blue, white and pale red. The drawing appears black on the copper or the white preparation. The translucent colours are applied directly over the copper (clearly visible where there is loss of enamel on the edge and elsewhere under magnification). Water is represented by a thin wash of translucent greyish-blue over white with black lines to represent waves. The reverse has translucent counter-enamel, tinged here and there with green.
height: (whole): 22.4
second quarter of 16th century
Given by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum
M.7-1945 (Applied Arts)