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STEFANO DELLA BELLA Death Carrying off a Child.
Etching, circa 1648. 187x152 mm; 7 1/2x6 1/4 inches. Second state (of 3). Small figure in a circle watermark. From the Five Deaths series. A very good impression of this scarce etching with strong contrasts.
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which has both an impression of this subject and a preparatory drawing for the etching, "Della Bella (1610-1664) was supported by the Medici for many years, primarily in Florence, but also in Rome, where his patron Lorenzo sponsored a period of study in the mid-1630s. In 1639, Della Bella traveled to France with the ambassador of the grand duke of Tuscany and remained there for over a decade.
It was probably during his last years in France that Della Bella began an updated version of the Dance of Death. This typically Northern and medieval subject usually showed Death in a variety of situations, carrying away victims of every age and walk of life. While in France, Della Bella etched four oval scenes of Death's conquest, including this print Death Carrying off a Child, three of which take place in cemeteries and the fourth on the battlefield. A horizontal version of Death triumphing in war probably also dates to these years. At the end of his life, Della Bella took up the theme again, creating three more episodes in the oval format—two of these were left incomplete at his death. In the early prints particularly, Death is as energetic as he is ruthless—here he rushes into the cemetery bearing a screaming and struggling child. The setting is the Cemetery of the Innocents in Paris, a site with which Della Bella was undoubtedly familiar, since many publishers and print dealers had their shops on the ground floor of the charnel houses." DeVesme 89.