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CRISTOFANO DI MICHELE MARTINI, IL ROBETTA Allegory of Carnal Love.
Engraving, circa 1498. 300x282 mm; 11 7/8x11 1/8 inches, thread margins. A very good, well-inked impression with strong contrasts.
Robetta, a Florentine goldsmith and engraver whose oeuvre consists of approximately 35 engravings executed around 1490 to 1530, borrowed generously from prints by Schongauer, Dürer and Antonio Pollaiuolo as well as paintings by the fellow Florentines Filippino Lippi and Sandro Botticelli. Nearly all Robetta's engravings are pastiches of other artist's works, whether entire compositions or selected parts of compositions. In this print, Robetta draws from landscapes engraved by Dürer, such as Hercules at the Crossroads, circa 1498 (Bartsch 73) and the figure style of Lippi. His ability to access the master engravings of his time points to their contemporaneous popularity throughout the cultural centers of Europe.
This frieze-like composition shows two different figural groups. In the one at the far right, the man embracing the woman looks down at the ground at a skull pointed to by a putto directing his gaze downward. This alludes to the popular Renaissance theme of two young lovers encountering death. In the center group is another pair of lovers, in which the male's left arm is bound to the tree by a cupid; he is a captive of love. At the far left is an androgynous male figure, likely a deity of some sort, with foliage covering his midsection, who has the two pairs of lovers entwined in a sash that he has wrapped over his shoulders, drawing the lovers toward him. Bartsch 25; Hind 29.