Rome: Antonio Lafreri, 1550.
Single sheet engraving. 400 x 288 mm. (plate); 431 x 318 mm. (sheet)
First state. With Lafreri’s excudit: “Ant. LafrerI FormIs Romae MDL” at lower right. Watermark “Crossbow with arrow in a circle” similar to Briquet 759. A very good impression, with light surface wear and light marginal soiling. Three early stamps on the verso, two of them from the Kupferstichkabinet Berlin (Lugt 1606), the second of which identifies the print as a duplicate (Lugt 2482). The third stamp (Lugt 1672) is that of the collector Wilhelm von Lepel.
An iconic image of the statue known as Pasquino, by far the most famous of Rome’s statue parlanti (talking statues). The statue was discovered in 1501 in the Parione district of Rome. Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, “the embodiment of humanist ideals, centering on the revival of antiquity”(Reynolds), erected the statue next to his palace near Piazza Navona, on the site of today’s Palazzo Braschi, where it stands to this day. As early as 1501, satirical poems in Latin and Italian, variously celebrating or criticizing the pope, clergy, and nobility, or lampooning private individuals, were affixed to the statue. By 1508, the statue had become the focus of a yearly celebration, held on St. Mark’s Day, during which the statue was dressed as a Roman deity or other mythological figure, and anonymous writers attached to it poems written in the “voice” of the statue. In 1511, Pasquino was dressed as Grief, mourning the death of Cardinal Carafa. In 1549, the year before this print was published, Pasquino famously opined on the death of Pope Paul III: ‘Here was buried a certain Paul/ a fraud, a fox, thief, murderer;/ Here famous in the mouth of Pasquino/ There suffering in the mouth of the devil.”
The artist responsible for this print has included a number of pasquinades, in Latin and Italian, shown on bits of paper attached to the walls of Carafa’s palace. The ground in front of the statue is strewn with props, a reference to the costumes worn by Pasquino during the St. Mark’s Day celebration. In the distance are two pairs of men, the first standing in the piazza and the second strolling towards the statue. Carafa’s arms are visible in the shadow on the statue’s base.
Lafreri’s print is a close copy of one published in 1542 by Antonio Salamanca, Lafreri’s rival and eventual business partner. The identity of the artist is unknown. Among those to whom the plate has been attributed are Enea Vico and Nicolas Beatrizet.
The sculpture comprises two figures, believed to be either Menelaus cradling the dead Patroclus or Ajax holding the dead Achilles.
The primary inscription is a sonetto caudato.
Io non son (come paio) un Babbuino
stroppiato, senza piedi, et senza mani,
Nemen con glialtri membri sconci et strani,
La simmia son di Niccolo Zoppino.
Ma son quel famosissimo Pasquino
Che tremar faccio i Signor piu soprani,
et stupir forastieri et Paesani
quando compango in volgare, o in Latino.
La mia persona è fatta in tal maniera
Per i colpi, e, hor questo hor quel in accocca
Per ch'io dico i lor falli a buona cera.
Ma infin ch'io ha l'usata lingua in bocca
Non ne fo stima, anchor che 'l resto pera
et sempre cantaro, Zara a chi tocca
Che se la gente sciocca
Non si vuol rimaner de i falli suoi
Chi terrà me' che no ‘l ridica poi.
I am not (as I seem), a Babbuino
crippled, without hands or feet,
Nor, with obscene and strange exotic parts,
am I the Ape of Nicolò Zoppino,
But I am that most famous Pasquino,
who makes the most prominent men shiver.
and astonishes the out-of-towners and my fellow citizens
when I compose in vernacular, or in Latin.
My persona was shaped in this way:
by the blows I take from here and from there
because I reveal their sins,
But as long as I have the use of the tongue in my mouth,
I do not care, even if the rest of my body perishes,
and I will continue to sing, whatever happens
and the people who are offended must deal with it.
Because if stupid people do not want to keep their sins to themselves,
Who is going to stop me from telling them?
The one that was sure to attract the most attention reads:
Pasquin tu fuste et sarai semper un pazo
Ti sai in ogni forma trasformate
Se ti voi alle donne grato fare
Per che non ti trasformi int' Vn Ca?
Pasquino, you always were and always will be an idiot.
You know how to transform yourself into any form
If you want to please women,
Why don’t you turn yourself into a d*ck?
Pasquino: Witness to a Rivalry, Prelude to a Partnership:
The engraving of Rome's talking statue published in 1550 bears witness to the rivalry between the two leading Roman print publishers of the mid-16th c., Antonio Salamanca (1479-1562) and Antonio Lafreri (1512-1577) and to the vast publishing phenomenon that came to be known as the "Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae" (The Mirror of Roman Magnificence”).
In the years following the sack of 1527, the Spanish emigree Antonio Salamanca began producing engravings of Roman subjects with regularity (prior to the sack such prints were few and appeared sporadically). In the 1540s, another emigree printer, the Frenchman Antonio Lafreri (Antoine Lafréry), began a rival enterprise, copying many of Salamanca’s engravings. The Pasquino, an image that Lafreri lifted from Salamanca, dates to this period.
In 1553, the two competing Roman publishers entered into a contractual alliance for twelve years, “with the explicit purpose of printing and selling copperplate prints of ancient and modern subjects… When the contractual agreement between Salamanca and Lafreri was established in 1553 the underlying principle of the “Speculum” was in place: it was to be a corpus of documentary prints of ancient and modern Roman subjects, mainly in folio.”(Parshall)
Lafreri’s and Salamanca’s engravings, illustrating the ancient and modern marvels of Rome (tombs, temples, palaces, baths, statuary, obelisks, columns, inscriptions, frescoes, etc.), were purchased by tourists as souvenirs, studied by antiquarians, used as models by artists and architects, and circulated as virtual visits for armchair travelers beyond Rome. By the late 1570s, collectors could also purchase an engraved title page while selecting prints for their own Speculum collections. As a result, Lafreri’s customers or those of his heirs (Salamanca had died in 1562 and Parshall suggests that the title was only in use after Lafreri’s death in 1577), collected images to suit their own needs or taste. After the death of Lafreri, two-thirds of the existing copper plates went to his heirs, and another third was sold to other publishers. These new owners continued to print the existing images while still producing new prints.
“Print collecting in the Renaissance is not very well understood, mainly because prints were numerous, comparatively inexpensive, and therefore rarely inventoried. They are less likely than other sorts of objects to come down to us with a clear indication of their original setting. Nevertheless, the evidence of a few large collections from the sixteenth century does suggest some consistent patterns, most notably that prints accumulated in substantial numbers tended to be compiled in albums where they were organized by subject- matter and scale…. There is still much to learn about how such collecting practices evolved and the development of a market to serve them.”(Parshall, “Antonio Lafreri's Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae", Print Quarterly , March 2006, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 3-28).
References: Lafreri-Index Z.249. Marigliani, “Lo Splendore di Roma nell’Arte incisoria del Cinquecento”, Edizioni Tipografia Marina (2016), V.56; Rubach, “Ant. Lafreri Formis Romae: Der Verleger Antonio Lafreri und seine Druckgraphickproduktion” (2016), no. 337; Hülsen, Speculum (1921), Nr. 71a; Alberti, L’Indice di Antonio Lafreri, no. 84.