Juste de Juste, Human Pyramids, an etching

France, around AD 1545

Six male nudes

This extraordinary etching (signed with a monogram) is one of a group of five prints of human pyramids by de Juste (1505-1559). A further twelve plates of single figures exist. The attribution to de Juste depends on reading the monogram at the bottom of the print in reverse: ÈETSVI must have been written ÈIVSTE on the plate. De Juste came from a family of sculptors of Florentine origin. In Fontainbleau, where he was employed on the stucco (plaster) decoration of the gallery of François I (1535-1540), he was working with other expatriate Florentine artists.

The purpose of these fantastic compositions is unclear. They do not form letters of the alphabet, nor are they flayed bodies designed to show muscular anatomy. They cannot represent an even momentary display by living acrobats (just two fingers and a thumb notionally support the upside-down figure in the centre). The composition is a two-dimensional arrangement of figures on a surface, with elbows, heads and hands neatly touching the frame at five points.

The drawing of muscular male nudes was a facility prized in the Florentine tradition. The bodies and heads of these figures are shown from the front and back, or in intermediate positions, with their wiry muscles confidently modelled in chiaroscuro (light and shade). Perhaps the etchings were simply a proud display of Florentine artistic virtuosity.

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More information


, The French Renaissance in Prin (Grunewald Centre for the Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles, 1994)


Height: 280.000 mm
Width: 205.000 mm

Museum number

PD I.7-101 (Zerner, Juste 1; Lieure B1)



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