Item #11371 [Masks]. René Boyvin.
[Masks].
[Masks].
[Masks].
[Masks].
[Masks].
“THE BEST WORK OF THE MASTER” — ROBERT-DUMESNIL

[Masks].

[Paris], [René Boyvin or his atelier] 1550s-1560s.

Small folio (248 x 170 mm.). TWELVE OBLONG SHEETS IN TWO GENDER-SPECIFIC SERIES IN SPECTACULAR CONTEMPORARY COLOR HEIGHTENED IN SILVER. The sheets of each series are numbered 1 to 6 (plate mark 158/161 x 280/285 mm.). Each plate has a left and a right profile bust portrait making twenty-four subjects in all — twelve men and twelve women. Here the sheets have been divided and reassembled in two series with women facing men.

CONTEMPORARY BROWN MOROCCO WITH THE ARMS OF HENRI III AS KING OF FRANCE AND POLAND in a field of lilies, the corners with his crowned cipher braced by foliage, gilt lilies cover the flat spine, evidence of four ties, all edges gilt (Olivier-Hermal-Roton 2491,2 and 2491,8).

“AMONG THE BEST-KNOWN ORNAMENT PRINTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCHOOL OF FONTAINEBLEAU” (Acton).
            Flesh has become artifact. The figure has become a work of art, a vehicle for ornament, the exotic and the mysterious — part ancient Rome, part Arabia, part carnival. Without horizon or background, eyeholes darkened, mouths frozen, parted lips immobile, the profiles disquiet the viewer.
            The scale and overabundance make the images difficult to read. Grotesques, animals, shocks of feathers, straps and diadems crowd helmets, bows, blooms, crowns and plaits. Shimmering jewelry falls from head to chest. Cabochons are the size of lion pelts. Pearls are as big as putti. Eyebrows, beards and mustaches are integral to the masks, so the eerily beautiful “faces” rarely reveal even a gem encrusted ear.
            These suites of highly theatrical headgear were widely diffused and much copied in France and Italy. They influenced the design of costume, tapestry, ceramics, enamel and metalwork. Twenty of the pen and ink wash drawings survive, fifteen squared for transfer (Collection Masson, École des beaux-arts).
            The genesis of the prints lies with Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino, who directed much of the pictorial work at the Château de Fontainebleau under François Ier. Rosso’s student, Léonard Thiry, probably prepared the drawings in the 1550s, and they were cut in the Parisian atelier of René Boyvin, likely by the master himself, an important disciple of the School of Fontainebleau.
            The reductive simplicity of the designs suggest they were originally destined for pietre dure, inlaid colored stone marquetry, for floors and wall panels at the château.
            THIS COPY BELONGED TO HENRI III, born at Fontainebleau, bisexual and the last of the Valois. His rule of Poland, May 1573 to May 1575, closely dates the binding.
            “The Valois had a taste for masked balls and masquerades…refined and luxurious diversions were the pretexts for many amorous intrigues rendered all the more attractive by the true identities of the partners being disguised by masks and extraordinary coiffures…when extravagance was permissible for the more or less gentlemanly ladies and the more or less effeminate men in the entourage of the king” (Levron, tr.).
            In superb condition, gilt blue bookplate.
¶Acton, “The School of Paris and the Dissemination of the Fontainebleau Style” in The French Renaissance in Prints ed. Jacobson (1994) 76-79; The Renaissance in France: Drawings from the École des Beaux-arts ed. Brugerolles & Guillet (1995) 37; BN Inventaire du fonds français…XVIe siècle I: 179-82,1-6,1-6; Robert-Dumesnil, Le Peintre-Graveur français 8: 49-53,78-89; Levron, René Boyvin, graveur angevin du XVIe siècle 76,210-221 & pls. XVII-XVIII; Guigard, Nouvel armorial du bibliophile I: 16.

Item #11371

Price: $148,000.00