The Dioscuri are two immense statues of horse tamers, variously said to be Castor and Pollux or Alexander and Bucephalus. Standing over five meters high, they are ancient Roman replicas of Greek originals from the 5th century BC. In the latter years of the Roman Empire, they were treated as originals and inscribed with the attributions to the famous Greek sculptors Praxiteles and Phidias shown in this engraving. (It was not unusual for the names of legendary artists to be attached to esteemed works of art centuries later.) At the time that Lafréry published his original engraving, they were on the Quirinal, one of the hills of Rome, at the Baths of Constantine. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V had the statues restored and moved to the Piazza del Quirinale. Since 1818, the statues have been incorporated into what is now known as the Fountain of the Dioscuri in the center of the piazza, which also includes an Egyptian obelisk and an ancient Roman basin.
Antoine Lafréry (also known by the Italian name Antonio Lafreri) was a French printseller and publisher, and possibly also an engraver, who moved to Italy and was active in Rome from around 1540 until his death in 1577. His firm published maps and a wide range of prints: ancient and modern Rome, portraits, ornament and mythological, historical and religious subjects. He also bought and sold drawings, coins and medals. Among Lafréry’s publications were two architectural treatises and several sets of ornament prints, including Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (c. 1540-c.1565). According to the subtitle of Speculum, it had the most accurately drawn representations of nearly all the extant monuments of the City of Rome; in the 1570s, the Lafréry catalogue listed some 500 subjects. Speculum did not have fixed contents; each copy was unique and varied in terms of the number of pages, subjects included, and even the printers and engravers. Moreover, later collectors also added prints to earlier sets. The University of Chicago holds the largest extant collection of Speculum, which may be viewed online on its web site (see References below).
Claude Duchet (also known by the Italian name Claudio Duchetti) was an Italian printseller and publisher. He inherited half of the plates of his uncle, the engraver and publisher Antoine Lafréry, and also commissioned plates from artists such as Perret, Thomassin and Brambilla. Upon his death in about 1585, his firm was operated by his brother-in-law Giacomo Gherardi as “Claudii Ducheti Heirs” until his son Claudio reached the age of majority.
Inscription: HEUS TU QUI PRAETERIS MORARE PAULUM AC INSPICE IN QUIRINALI HI SUNT EQUI MARMOREI MUTILI ATQUE GRANDES ARTE VICTA NATURA PARENS SPIRITUM CUR EPIRIT QUID PRAXITELES ET FIDIAS EFFINXERE ISTOS AEMULAMUR SAT DIXI ABEL VALE SALVE MISCE BIBE DA MI. Romae. 1584. Claudii, Ducheti Formis.
Translation [by University of Chicago]: Hey! You who pass by, stop a while and observe: these are the grand, broken marble horses in the Quirinal. With art conquered, obedient nature snatched away the breath, what Praxiteles and Fidias fashioned; I am quite jealous of these; hail, be well, mix, drink, give me.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Few soft creases and few printers creases not obtrusive. No margins; cut to ruled border, as is typical with old master prints of this period. On laid paper, watermark letter “M” in a shield.
Provenance: James Lamantia, Jr. (1923 – 2011). At the time of his death, Lamantia was Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was also a practicing architect, and an artist.
“(A89) Statues Of The Dioscuri At The Quirinal.” University of Chicago Library. http://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu/view.php?id=speculum-0089-001&title=(A89)%20Statues%20Of%20The%20Dioscuri%20At%20The%20Quirinal (24 August 2012).
“(A117) Statues Of The Dioscuri At The Quirinal.” University of Chicago Library. http://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu/view.php?id=speculum-0117-001&title=(A117)%20Statues%20Of%20The%20Dioscuri%20At%20The%20Quirinal (24 August 2012).
“Antoine Lafréry.” British Museum Collection Database. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=118308 (24 August 2012).
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 5, p. 355.
Bernini, Fabrizio. “La Fontana dei Dioscuri, il suggestivo belvedere del Quirinale.” EZ Rome. 31 March 2011. http://www.ezrome.it/fontane/la-fontana-dei-dioscuri-il-suggestivo-belvedere-del-quirinale-2499.html (27 August 2012).
“Claudio Duchetti.” British Museum Collection Database. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=92428 (24 August 2012).
Freeman, Charles. The Horses of St. Mark’s: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice. Penguin, 2010. pp. 94-95. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=32yAlUZ0350C (27 August 2012).
“Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae.” University of Chicago Library. http://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu/content/introduction.html (24 August 2012).
“Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae/ Opus Fidiae Opus Praxitelis.” British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=3068124 (27 August 2012).
“Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae Roma nell’incisione del Cinquecento.” Mandragora Publishing House. 2005-2012. http://www.mandragora.it/en/speculum-romanae-magnificentiaebrroma-nellincisione-del-cinquecento-en.html (24 August 2012).