The oldest books in the Art Library, Part V

This post continues the series on some of the earliest books in the Art Library’s collection, all of which are housed in the Art Library’s rare book room.    If you want to see any of them, just ask at the desk.

The next book to consider is by Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630), a Florentine painter and printmaker, known for hunting and battle scenes and depictions of nature, particularly animals. After working in Florence, he went to Rome where he was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to paint religious scenes in the Vatican Palace and a chapel fresco at S. Stefano Rotondo.  This was followed by commissions for several  palazzi and villas.

Tempesta created more than 1000 prints which were widely distributed.  They covered subjects from the Bible, to Alexander the Great, to the book discussed today: MetamorphoseonSive Transformationum Ovidianarum Libri Quindecim, Aeneis Formis ab Antonio Tempesta Florentino Incisi, et in Pictorum Antiquitatisque Studiosorum Gratiam Nunc Primum Exquisitissimis Sumptibus a Petro de Iode Autuerpiano in Lucem Editi.  Published in Amsterdam, probably in 1606, the book is comprised of a series of engravings illustrating Ovid’s MetamorphosesMetamorphoseon was often used as a model book for artists.  Students received their initial training using model books and artists often used model books as a source for elements in new compositions.  It is possible to trace the imagery in works of even well-known artists, (Jacques Callot, Peter Paul Rubens and Diego Velázquez, for example) to particular model books.  Once it became common for sketches to be made for every commission, model books were no longer used by painters, although they continued to be used by artisans and decorative artists.

Below are the title page of Metamorphoseon and a typical page from the book.

Why does the library collect rare books?  Because they are primary source materials of art history, offering a first-hand account of an artist’s life, the first critical response to a building or painting, or a new theory of art or architecture.  As the building blocks of art history, they remain relevant sources for researchers.



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