February 07, 2005

Giuseppe Maria Mitelli

I discovered the work of the Italian graphic artist Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718), while compiling my recent entry on figurative alphabets. I took an immediate liking to what I could find this engraver’s inventive, often light-hearted designs, and ordered a book which, I gathered, collected many of Mitelli’s etchings and engravings. The book arrived last week, a stout and rather dowdy volume labouring under the ungainly title of Le Collezioni D’Arte della Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna, Le Incisioni - Volume 1 (The Art Collection of the Mutual Savings Bank in Bologna, the Engravings, Vol. 1). An initial selection of images from this book follow below…

The World is for the Most Part, but a Cage of Fools', etching by Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, 1684.

Happily, this book’s appearance was perfectly deceptive, and the images therein were vivid and engaging. Mitelli published several elaborate graphic sequences, not least of which is the bizarre Alfabeto in Sogno (Dream Alphabet), dating from 1683, in which are represented ‘the letters of the alphabet formed of disordered phantasms, and confused images.’

The Letter B from Mitelli's 'Alfabeto in Sogno', etching, 1683. The Letter H from Mitelli's 'Alfabeto in Sogno', etching, 1683.
The Letter X from Mitelli's 'Alfabeto in Sogno', etching, 1683. The Letter Z from Mitelli's 'Alfabeto in Sogno', etching, 1683.

Other sequences of Mitelli’s include a charming set of illustrated proverbs, and, a set depicting Le Ventiquattr’Hore dell’Humana Felicit√† (The Twenty-Four Hours of Human Happiness) in which twenty-three persons are portrayed, each accompanied by a verse stating his or her claim to happiness, which is answered in each case by a barbed riposte from Death, to whom, moreover, the final image of the set, the twenty-fourth hour, is exclusively devoted. Four images from this sequence follow below: the player, the painter and sculptor, the poet, and the doctor.

The Player, an etching from Mitelli's 'Ventiquattr'Hore', 1670s. The Painter and Sculptor, an etching from Mitelli's 'Ventiquattr'Hore', 1670s.
The Poet, an etching from Mitelli's 'Ventiquattr'Hore', 1670s. The Medic, an etching from Mitelli's 'Ventiquattr'Hore', 1670s.

Besides these more-or-less humourous series, liberally seasoned with caricature, Mitelli also executed etched and engraved copies of paintings, particularly of the work of Caracci. He also made single prints on various subjects, designed a deck of Tarot cards, and several board games, and issued alarmist propaganda on the occasion of the 1683 siege of Vienna. The last of the present images, below, is entitled Macchina del Mondo (Engine of the World), and is a sardonically literal depiction of society’s hierarchy.

'The Engine of the World', etching by Mitelli, c. 1687.

Click on the images above to see them enlarged.

Posted by misteraitch at February 7, 2005 01:42 PM | TrackBack

thank you!!! for all of your wonderful blogs.

Posted by: sera on May 16, 2007 08:44 AM

is the a book i can buy

Posted by: LUCIANO FRANCHI on May 19, 2007 07:16 PM
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