Thrust and Parry: Designs of the Early Modern Goldsmith-Engraver
Balthasar Moncornet after François Lefebure and Jacques Callot, Livre de Fleurs & de Feullies pour servir a l'art d'orfeverie, 1635, engraving
Prints by early 17th-century goldsmith-engravers including Jean Toutin, François Lefebure, Antoine Jacquard and others pair wondrous nature-inspired designs with the illustration of figures in mock or real sword fights, including characters lifted from etchings of the commedia dell’arte by close contemporary Jacques Callot. Largely resistant to explanation, the arrangements have been viewed as evidence for the popularity of Callot’s graphic oeuvre or simply as amusing, but meaningless visual diversions. Building on my earlier research into the sounds and airs of early modern ornament prints, the current project seeks to shed light on the relationship between the prints’ imagery of violence (often with sharp, pointed instruments) and the early modern goldsmith’s artisanal ethos, a mode of creativity and comportment that is distinguished by a distinctly quarrelsome, even belligerent mode of self-presentation.
Madeleine Viljoen oversees The New York Public Library’s Spencer Collection of manuscripts, fine illustrated books, and livres d’artistes as well as the Print Collection, which now holds well over 200,000 prints in a broad range of media. Her articles have appeared in The Art Bulletin, The Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Oxford Art Journal, Print Quarterly, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, as well as in exhibition catalogues and essay collections. Among the exhibitions she has organized are The Early Modern Painter-Etcher (with Michael W. Cole); Printing Women, a survey of early-modern women printmakers; Love in Venice; and A Curious Hand: The Prints of Charles-Henri Guérard. She is currently working on an exhibition about the South Sea and Mississippi Bubbles of 1720. Marking the tercentenary of the catastrophic financial event whose economic repercussions reverberated across Europe and beyond, a related book, titled Meltdown! Picturing the World’s First Bubble Economy (co-authored with Meredith Martin (NYU) and Nina Dubin (University of Illinois at Chicago)), was just published by Brepols/Harvey Miller in 2020.
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