Titian Portraits of Roman Emperors and Empresses
Early 17th Century Prints

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Titian (c. 1488-1576) (after)
Aegidius Sadeler II (c. 1570-1629) (etcher)
Marcus Christoph Sadeler (1614-after 1650) (publisher)
Portraits of Roman Emperors and Empresses
Flemish: 1st Half 17th Century
Black and white etchings
14 x 9.25 inches, platemark
15 x 13.75 inches, overall
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Selection of 16 portraits of Roman emperors and empresses.  They are from a set of 24 prints comprised of 12 portraits of the emperors by Titian and engraved by Aegidius Sadeler II, who also engraved 12 companion portraits of the empresses associated with each emperor -- all wives, except one of the mother of one of the emperors.  The subjects are classically posed, dressed in armor and draped clothing, with objects representing their power including swords and staffs.  Below each image is a poem in Latin.  Two other prints from the series without corresponding empresses, of Nero Claudius Caesar and D. Vespasianus Augustus, are also shown here.

Titian created the original series of paintings of Roman emperors around 1537-38 for Duke Federigo Gonzaga, ruler of Mantua.  In 1627-28, the Mantuan government sold the set to Charles I of England. Eventually they ended up in a collection in Spain, where they were all destroyed in a fire in 1734, leaving Aegidius and Marcus Sadeler's etchings as the major record of the appearance of the original paintings.  Sadeler’s sources for the empresses are also lost.  Some contemporary art historians theorize he based them on works by Hans von Achen (1552-1615) or Bartholomeus Spranger (1546-1611), who like Sadeler, were court artists to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague.  Several of the prints of the empresses are in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) is considered one of the greatest painters in the history of European art.  He was associated with the Venetian school during the 16th century and produced religious subjects, portraits, allegories and scenes from classical mythology and history. Titian's sensuous, painterly style influenced his contemporaries and later generations of artists.

The Sadelers were a family of Flemish engravers, publishers and printsellers who were active throughout Europe for three generations. There were two Aegidius Sadelers, known as Aegidius I (c. 1555-c. 1609) and Aegidius II (c. 1570-1629); the latter worked for Emperor Rudolf II in Prague and his successors.  Marcus Christoph Sadeler (1614-1656) was an engraver and publisher. The Sadeler family played a dominant role in European graphic art, producing a wide range of high quality work.


Hollstein, F.W.H. Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts. ca. 1450-1700. A.L. Van Gendt, B.V., Blaricum, 1984.  354 (III/III).

Pennington, Samuel.  “When the Answers Lead to Questions.”  Maine Antiques Digest.  March 2007.

"Sadeler." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/07/0749/T074900.asp (20 May 2003).

"Titian." The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. Artnet.com. http://www.artnet.com/library/08/0852/T085242.asp (20 May 2003).

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