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Old Masters, Titian, Loves of the Gods, London, Antique Mezzotint Prints, 1708 (SOLD)

Titian (c. 1485-1576) (after)
John Smith (c. 1652-1742) (engraver)
The Loves of the Gods: Nine Plates
England: c. 1708
Mezzotint on paper
16.5 x 12.75 inches, image
19.25 x 14.25 inches, sheet
The Ian Woodner Family Collection, and a major international auction house

This item is sold. It has been placed here in our online archives as a service for researchers and collectors.

Fine and rare set of nine mezzotints depicting the romances of various gods in classical mythology. The romantic pairs of gods and goddeses are generally engaged in flirtation or embrace, often with strong undertones of sexuality. In many, the romantic advances of the male is apparently not reciprocated or is unwanted by the female. The figures typically are accompanied by their usual symbolic attributes, such as Ceres with her cornucopia. Many have one or two cupids or cherubs, often with bow and arrow, encouraging the passions, sometimes in an apparently mischievous manner. The figures are rendered in natural settings in voluptuous late Renaissance Italianate style characteristic of Titian, upon whose works the prints are based.

Product description continues below


Some of the prints from this set are in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London. We offer nine of the original ten plates as a set. Our examples are rendered in rich, velvety mezzotint tones. They are superb examples of the mezzotint print medium by John Smith, the foremost English mezzotint artist of the early 18th century. In the lower right margin of each is the handwritten notation in ink, “Première Épreuve” [first proof].

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) was one of the great Italian painters, draftsmen and printmakers of the late Renaissance, considered the foremost painter of the Venetian school. His painterly technique, characterized by looser brushwork, less defined outlines and mutually related colors, influenced later generations of artists. Titian painted religious, historical and mythological subjects, portraits and allegories.

John Smith was an English mezzotint engraver and print seller, engraving prints for public sale and private commissions. He collaborated with Isaac Beckett in the mid-1680s, then used Edward Cooper as his publisher. Sometime before 1700 he set up his own printselling and publishing business in London. He did a large number of engravings after portraits, especially paintings by Sir Godfrey Kneller, who employed him for that purpose. He also engraved mythological and religious scenes after various old master paintings. Smith engraved some 800 prints represented in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The Ian Woodner Family Collection was assembled by New York collector Ian Woodner (d. 1990), an architect and builder who studied painting at the school of Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1930s. It was considered one of the premier private collections of master drawings in the 20th century, favoring drawings of the Renaissance, but also including works from other eras, including 206 works by the French Symbolist Odilon Redon. The collection was the subject of an exhibition shown at the National Gallery of Art, Getty Museum, Kimball Art Museum and Fogg Art Museum in 1983-84 and the books The Touch of the Artist: Master Drawings from the Woodner Collection, Margaret Morgan Grasselli, editor (New York: Abrams, 1995) and Master Drawings from the Woodner Collection, an Exhibition Catalogue (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990).

Condition: Exceptionally rich impressions, printed on laid papers, watermark Strasburg Lily, complete with margins. Usual mild toning and wear, some scattered pale light-staining in the margins and few minor repaired chips to outer margins. One with short marginal tear, professionally restored. Proof notations somewhat faded.


Challaner Smith, p. 1132.

Guinard, Mavis. “Magical, Macabre Redon.” World & I.   August 1992, Vol. 7, p. 206. (31 March 2004)

“John Smith.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (31 March 2004).

“Titian.” The Grove Dictionary of Art. New York: Macmillan. 2000. (31 March 2004).

“Titian: Portraits.” National Portrait Gallery. (31 March 2004).

Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol.5, pp. 93-94.

Additional information


18th Century