While Vincenzo Cartari’s book Imagini delli Dei de gl’Antichi (‘Images of the Gods of the Ancients’) was neither the earliest nor the most erudite treatise on the Græco-Roman pantheon to be published in 16th Century Italy, in time it came to be the most popular and influential. The book focused on the iconography of the gods, explaining the guises in which they were portrayed, and detailing their several attributes and accoutrements. The book’s success was bolstered by the vivid woodcut illustrations accompanying the text, which first appeared in its third edition, published in Venice in 1571. The designs are said to be by one Bolognino Zaltieri. Details from some of these woodcuts follow below.
Very little is known about Cartari. He was probably born in Reggio Emilia in the early years of the 16th Century. According to Jean Seznec, he was probably a protégé of the dukes of Ferrara. He wrote in Italian rather than Latin. His name is seldom found in the works of his contemporaries. In his book, Cartari acknowledged the influence of Lilio Gregorio Giraldi’s ‘History of the Gods’ (De deis gentium varia et multiplex historia…), which had been published in 1548; Cartari indeed was later accused of plagiarizing the older scholar’s work. Cartari’s writings were borrowed in turn by later writers, notably by Gian Paolo Lomazzo.
Given that the present revels derive in part from the ancient Saturnalia, I have reproduced a pair of images (the first two, above) of the god Saturn. The first of them represents the sad effects supposedly brought by the planet Saturn, and by the renewal of the year. The three-headed personification of the god in the second image refers to time past, present and future, and again represents the malign nature of the planet, and its distant frigidity. The third of the present images shows Janus, another deity readily brought to mind at the turning of the year, while Jove is shown together with Pan in the fourth image.
The fifth image, the first of the pair immediately above, shows the goddess Angerona, a deity whom, I must admit, I had not heard of before. Apparently, though, she is a goddess of secrecy, and of the winter solstice. If I’m construing the text in the book correctly, she is shown alongside the figure of Harpocrates, ‘god of silence.’ Later editions (from 1615 onward) of the Imagini were augmented with annotations by the antiquarian and philologist Lorenzo Pignoria: the sixth image is taken from this appendix, and depicts Hercules in the guise of Mercury.
Pignoria also appended a Seconda Parte delle Imagini de gli Dei Indiani (‘Second Part of the Images of the Indian Gods’), a short and rather perfunctory selection of images of Mexican and Japanese divinities. The final pair of details above were scanned from this final section of the book, more specifically from a reprint of the 1647 edition of the Imagini issued by Editrice Luna of Milan, in 2004.Posted by misteraitch at December 27, 2005 08:36 PM