This engraving was made by the publisher Antoine Lafréry’s nephew and heir Claude Duchet and is considered to be part of Lafréry’s Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, a massive compilation that aspired to document nearly every extant monument in Rome. The British Museum has in its collection three copies of this print, shown on its web site, all of which are the 1579 version by Duchet shown here, and they identify Brambilla as the engraver. An inscription lower right lists the publication credits as, “Romae, Claudij duchetti formis, 1579”
The Cortile del Belvedere today is one of three courtyards at the Vatican in Rome. In 1506, Pope Julius II commissioned the architect Donato Bramante to connect the Palace of Innocent VIII with the Sistine Chapel. Each of these had been constructed in the last quarter of the 1400s. Bramante died in 1514 and the Belvedere was completed for Pope Pius IV in 1562-65 by the architect and engraver Pirro Ligorio. Located on a sloping site, the gardens were designed as a set of terraces, surrounded by long, corridor-like wings and traversed by staircases. As seen in this engraving, the upper terraces held lawns or formal gardens, while the lowest level was paved and furnished with bleachers as an outdoor theater for tournaments, pageants and carousels. Today the courtyard is divided in two by the Vatican Library addition built by Pope Sixtus V, which replaced the middle terrace of Bramante’s original design. The lowest terrace is still called the Cortile del Belvedere, but the upper terrace is called the Cortile della Pigna.
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.
Ambrogio Brambilla was an Italian painter and engraver from Milan. By 1575 he was residing in Rome, where he engraved devotional and genre subjects, portraits, costume prints, board games, depictions of events and ceremonies and topographical prints. He worked for the publishers Panzera, Van Aelst and Claudio Duchetti, among others.
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. Remnants of adhesive for matting on backside, outer margins, no affecting the front of the image. 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.
“Ambrogio Brambilla.” British Museum Collection Database. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/term_details.aspx?bioId=131273 (30 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).
“Cortile del Belvedere.” Wikipedia. 18 August 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortile_del_Belvedere (31 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).
“Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae / Vero dissegno…di Belvedere in Roma.” http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx?objectid=3065845
&partid=1&searchText=belvedere+giardini&numpages=10&orig=%2fresearch%2fsearch_the_collection_database.aspx¤tPage=1 (30 August 2012).
“Vatican Courtyards.” Vatican City State. 2007-2012. http://www.vaticanstate.va/EN/Monuments/The_Vatican_Museums/Vatican_Courtyards.htm (31 August 2012).