- Museum number
The Triumph of Love; in the centre Cupid's chariot is pulled by four white horses, moving from left to right through a hilly landscape; blindfolded Cupid stands above a burning vase, balancing on one foot and about to release an arrow; the chariot is surrounded by lovers, variously attired (among them two kings and Samson holding a column); to the left is Petrarch in dialogue with a couple of the lovers; illustration to Petrarch's 'Triumph of Love'. c.1480-90
- Production date
- 1480-1490 (circa)
Height: 297 millimetres
Width: 198 millimetres
- Curator's comments
For the volume of text the prints were extracted from see 1883,0310.1+
This print belongs to a series of six engravings illustrating Francesco Petrarch's short poem the 'Triumphs', written between 1340 and 1374. The engravings are executed in a style called by Hind the 'Broad Manner', characterised by broad parallel strokes close in effect to pen drawing. Attributions of this group have included Nicoletto da Modena (Bartsch), Baccio Baldini (Kollof), and an anonymous craftsman influenced by Pesellino and Francesco Lippi (Hind). However, the set is now convincingly recognised as the work of Francesco Rosselli on the basis of the close similarity to other early engravings catalogued by Hind under the term 'Broad Manner', especially to the 'View of Florence' with which it shares the same landscape of hills and trees (for a comparison see Hind, B.III.18 and Mark J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part. 2, 1994, pp. 95-97, no. 072).
The theme of the 'Triumphs of Petrarch' was a popular subject among artists and craftsmen of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; most quattrocento versions of the 'Triumphs' conform to a standard iconography characterised by a chariot procession with all six personifications mounted alike on a float, an idea probably suggested by Roman triumphs. The illustrations of the Petrarchian poem were more closely dependent on visual tradition than on the poem itself; indeed, rather than an accompaniment to the whole text, the prints were an independent production with six-line quotations from the 'Triumphs', inscribed below each image, referring to the personifications and drawing a moral from them.
As already suggested by Hind, the engravings are stylistically related to a series of cassone panels (paintings decorating the sides of wooden caskets that were commissioned on the occasion of weddings to transport and store the bride's clothes and linen in her husband's house), depicted with the same subject, attributed to Pesellino (c1448, in the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston) and Jacopo del Sellaio (c1480, in the Museum Bandini in Fiesole). Zucker noted (in 'The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, p. 30) that the prints are more mature than Pesellino's panels in their rendering of the landscape and in the easier movements of their figures, without yet possessing any of Sellaio's Botticellian grace and animation. Thus, some scholars dated the set in the period between Pesellino and Sellaio, around 1460s or 1470s (even if Hind gave a broader timespan of c1470-90). Nevertheless, the group can hardly have been produced before the mid-to late 1480s, as Archer has recently indicated with regard to the related series of 'The Life of the Virgin and Christ' (see M. Cirillo Archer, 'The Dating of a Florentine Life of the Virgin and Christ', in "Print Quarterly", V, 1988, 4, pp. 395-402). In any case they must predate a series of woodcut adaptations based on them in a Venetian edition of Petrarch's 'Triumphs' published in 1490.
The 'Triumphs' exist in three states: the first state, before additional reworking; the second state, with added lines of shading (e.g. various white spaces in drapery, details, clothes filled up); the third state, further reworked in the principal lines. Complete or nearly complete sets are in Berlin, Chantilly, Paris, Rothschild collection (Louvre, Paris), Vienna and London.
The BM possesses a set of very good impressions of the first and the second state, those in the first state with wide margins and formerly inserted in the edition of Petrarch's 'Triumphs' printed in Venice by Bernardino Rizus da Novara in 1488.
As Hind noted, the close correspondence in the dimensions of pairs of the subjects makes it likely that the six subjects were engraved on both sides of three plates (e.g. nos. 1 and 6, 2 and 5, 3 and 4); any doubts about this can be dispelled by an entry in the Rosselli inventory (1525) which refers to three plates of "1 giuocho del trionfo del petrarcha in 3 pezi" (a game of the Triumphs of Petrarch in 3 pieces).
The present engraving is the first state of the print; other examples of the first state are in Berlin, Boston, Vienna, Milan, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), in the Rothschild collection (Louvre, Paris) and in the Chicago Art Institute. No impressions of the third state of this subject survive.
The image - one of the most important engravings ascribed to Rosselli - illustrates Petrarch's description of the Triumph of Love, the only one of the six that the poet actually described. Italian artists of the early Renaissance developed a conventional formula for representing the subject based on Petrarch, and this formula is followed by Rosselli. As Hind suggested, a version of the composition, possibly derived from the engraving, is found in the background of Francesco Ubertini called Bacchiacca's painting of 'Portrait of a young lute player' (in the New Orleans Museum of Art).
The print can be related to other engravings attributed to Rosselli, especially to those from the series of 'The Life of the Virgin and Christ' (see Hind B.I.1-16 and Mark J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Bartsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, pp. 10-29, nos. 001-017). For a recent entry on the print see A. Wright, in exh. cat., London, National Gallery, 'Renaissance Florence. The Art of the 1470s', 1999-2000, no. 94. The scholar noted that the 'Triumph of Love' was a popular subject on furniture painting and 'deschi da parto' (decorated birth trays). She also observed that Cupid's pose is similar to that of Verrocchio's famous fountain figure of 'Cupid holding a Dolphin' in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Triumphs
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See Reid's report to the Trustees, 23 November 1882, arguing for the exceptional importance of these impressions as being the only ones in perfect original condition, and citing the views of William Mitchell. The six plates were bound up in a copy of the 1488 works of Petrarch in the Sunderland library sale (4th portion). It was there bought by Quaritch who offered it to the BM. Reid refers to supporting letters from eminent connoisseurs and collectors.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number