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Design Art, Calligraphy, Florentine, Antique Print, c. 1800


Gaetano Giarrè (act. c. 1796-1811)
Cerca il Saggio la Gloria
Florence: c. 1797-1811
11.5 x 8.5 inches, platemark
14.5 x 9.5 inches, overall

Engraving of an Italian poem decorated with whimsical Rococo decorations comprised of stylized urns and plants, with birds, insects and animals, intended to teach penmanship and calligraphy. At the top, the initial capital C of the poem’s title incorporates a cornucopia of fruit, with a bird partaking of a cherry from it perched on the decorative curl of the letter as another bird flies away. The poem is an exhortation to stay on a virtuous path and avoid the fate of the damned. While most of the designs are benign, the drawing at the bottom strikes an ominous note as a cat attacks a rooster, perhaps an allegory of forces of darkness that prey on those who stray from virtue, or perhaps an allusion to the Enlightenment idea of the sublime. In the midst of the design are capital letters from A to Z, with the title “Printed Uppercase German Alphabet.”


An inscription near the bottom identifies the designer and engraver as “Gaetano Giarrè, Master of Writing.” Giarrè had a school in Florence and designed and engraved several penmanship copybooks. This engraving is probably from Alfabeto di Lettere Iniziali Adorno di Animali, e Proseguito da Vaga Serie di Caratteri (Giacomo Moro, Florence: 1797) or Raccolta di Caratteri Inglesi, Francesi, Italiani, e Tedeschi: Con Nuovo, e Breve Metodo, per Facilmente Imitarli (1811), which Giarrè published himself.

Cerca il Saggio la Gloria.

Calca da franco il Tramite d’onore
Un generoso spirito e gentile,
E languisce sepolto in cupo orrore
Un basso Genio inonorato, e vile.

Alfabeto Maiuscolo Tedesco Stampatello


Porgi a Virtù gl’affetti
Sempre a te stesso eguale,
O tu che Gloria aspetti
Per renderti immortale.

In Search of Glory [approximate translation]

Roaming free in the midst of honor,
A generous and kind spirit,
And languishing buried in deep, dark horror,
A base and dishonorable Demon.

Printed Uppercase German Alphabet


Offer as much affection to Virtue
As to yourself,
O you who Glory awaits
To render you immortal.

Inscribed in print: Gaet’o. Giarrè Maestro di Scritto inventò dis e incise.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, nonetheless with some very light remaining toning, wear, minor soiling.

Additional information


Late 18th/Early 19th Century