November 09, 2006

‘Master L. D.’ and ‘Juste de Juste’

My mumbled apologies for the dull silence emanating from this site over the past couple of weeks. May I offer, as an attempt to slap this blog awake, some more scans from my copy of Henri Zerner’s The School of Fontainebleau; Etchings and Engravings, (Thames and Hudson, 1969). The first eight of the images below are details from graphic works associated with an artist known only as ‘Master L.D.’ from these same initials which adorn a number of Fontainebleau-related prints. According to Zerner, it is possible that the initials stood for a Léon Daven (or Davent), but such is the paucity of documentary evidence that this identification must necessarily be a tentative one.

Detail from 'The Garden of Vertumnus,' an engraving by the Master L.D., 1540s.

Zerner reckons L.D. to have been the finest etcher of the Fontainebleau school. Several dozen of his etchings (and a smaller number of engravings) have surived. The majority of these follow paintings or designs by Francesco Primaticcio, many of whose compositions were crowded with obscure classical allusions. The engraving shown in the detail above, for example, illustrates ‘The Garden of Vertumnus’ and is based on one of the frescoes by Primaticcio (since destroyed) which once adorned Fontainebleau’s Pavillon de Pomone.

Detail from 'Woman Being Carried to a Libidinous Satyr,' an etching by the Master L.D., 1547.


Detail from 'Satyr Being Carried to a Woman,' an etching by the Master L.D., 1547.

Primaticcio’s work (and hence the Master L.D’s) is notable for its frequent and up-front deployment of erotic themes. In the etchings at least, these themes are disconcertingly often set in a coercive light, where Ledas grapple with swans, Jupiters overwhelm Sémélés, and more-or-less reluctant nymphs are put upon by rapacious satyrs. The first of the pair of etchings above is a typical example, where just such a nymph is being carried to a libidinous satyr. The second etching provides an altogether atypical symmetry, by depicting a satyr being manhandled, in turn, to a libidinous nymph…

Detail from 'Dance of Fauns and Bacchantes,' an etching by the Master L.D., 1540s.

Primaticcio and L.D.’s partnership seems to have flourished for a relatively brief period, ca. 1542-8, and, according to Zerner, inspired the graphic artist’s finest work. L.D. is also known to have produced etchings after designs by Agostino Veneziano (for example the one shown in the detail above), and by another of the Fontainebleau painters, Luca Penni. A series of illustrations by Penni of the seven deadly sins was etched by L.D., although the ‘sloth’ and ‘lust’ images in the set (which, conicidentally, are the ones I picked out for display here—below) are thought to have been completed by another hand, perhaps Penni’s own.

Detail from 'Sloth,' from a series of etchings by the Master L.D. et al., 1547.


Detail from 'Lust,' from a series of etchings by the Master L.D. et al., 1547.

L.D. is also supposed to have produced one set of images not associated with Fontainebleau: these are the woodcut illustrations for a book by one Nicolas de Nicolay entitled Les quatre premiers livres des Navigations et pérégrinations orientales… which was published at Lyons in 1567-8, but which had been prepared for the press some eleven years earlier. The details below depict, respectively, a Greek villager and a Turkish judge. More of the designs from this book can be found here.

Detail from 'Greek Villager', a woodcut illustration by the Master L.D. after a design by de Nicolay, ca. 1556-7.


Detail from 'Cadilesquer' (a Turkish Judge), a woodcut illustration by the Master L.D. after a design by de Nicolay, ca. 1556-7.

Another group of etchings associated with the Fontainebleau school is a singularly odd set of images of stylised nude male figures. Five prints (such as the pair shown in the details immediately below) display these figures, who despite their exaggerated musculatures seem bonily emaciated, in improbably acrobatic ‘human pyramids.’ Twelve further etchings depict similar figures singly, in a variety of poses. The attribution of these images to Juste de Juste (1505-1559), a sculptor who worked as an assistant of Rosso’s at Fontainebleau, depends on a monogram printed at the bottom of certain of these prints being in reverse as ÈIVSTE

Detail from one of the 'Human Pyramid' etchings attributed to Juste de Juste, 1540s.


Detail from another of the 'Human Pyramid' etchings attributed to Juste de Juste, 1540s.

Zerner, hesitant to accept so uncertain an attribution, refers to these etchings’ author as ‘the supposed Juste de Juste.’ He goes on to remark that these ‘curious documents’ mark one of the outer limits of mannerist eccentricity, and while they ‘are not by a great artist,’ ‘they are by a clever draughtsman and a great original who was able to state the impossible with conviction.’ Click on the details to see the images enlarged, and in full.

Detail from one of the single figure etchings attributed to Juste de Juste, 1540s. Detail from another of the single figure etchings attributed to Juste de Juste, 1540s.


Posted by misteraitch at November 9, 2006 09:05 PM

Thank You for posting these excellent works
and providing some background. Mannerism is something I've always been interested in ever since I wrote my first art history paper on some painter whose name escapes me. An image of Hercules at the spinning wheel wearing a silk shawl and a young girl balancing improbably his enormous club and wearing his skins. It seems that Vertumnus is such a hard god to beat for symbolizing the changing and protean face of things in the world, the seasons in every sense.
Keep up the good work Mr. H! I was worried when you went blank!

Posted by: lanny quarles on November 10, 2006 12:37 PM

Stunning stuff mate
Your blog is like a treasure trove for Medieval n 19th century art and literature buffs
Stumbled into ur profile searching for Ernst works
n btw Do you have "Shadow of the dial and other essays" by Bierce
A softcopy will more than suffice my appetite
I would be more than ecstatic if positive....
And do your give aways extend to people from other continents??
Finally i got to see a solid blog
Keep Posting........

Posted by: harsha on November 10, 2006 02:12 PM

One hopes that the nymph will lasso and then spank him soundly... After visions of Mr. Aitch with a big fat Scandinavian cold, I'm very glad to see you returning us to the off-beat but frolicksome paths of the wilderness.

Posted by: marlyat2 on November 11, 2006 02:12 AM

Favourites of mine too, especially since I managed to pick up indecently cheaply a copy of "The French Renaissance in Prints - from the BNF" earlier this year - fat 1995 exhib catalogue from LA & Paris.

ID's of both Leon Davent & Juste de Juste are taken as pretty confirmed there by Suzanne Boorsch. You have to remember Juste was a Florentine & Zerner is French. They always wait an extra 80 years or so before conceding foreign authorship of any work that might come from la grande patrie - cf the Bayeux Tapestry.

My favourite Davent's are his later works after Primaticcio - "Acteon attacked by his dogs" (not so called there; he is fully a stag) & "Cadmus fighting the dragon.." (often called Jason....). Pierre Milan's "Mars & Venus" after Rosso Fiorentino is beautiful and strange also.

Posted by: Johnb on November 19, 2006 04:49 AM

Your comment on 'LD' and Nicolas de Nicolay is very interesting, because Nicolay was a signifciant character. He was a mapmaker of some renown and geographer to the French court from 1566. The illustrations to Les quatre premiers livres des Navigations et pérégrinations orientales were very influential, but I was never entirely sure whether Nicolay did them himself. No doubt he had the skill to make the initial drawings and drafts, but it would be really interesting to know more of LD's role

Posted by: Andrew Wheatcroft on December 31, 2006 12:33 PM

Interesting page and photos! I'm writing my thesis for my diploma Art History in Leuven about the relation between the engravers Pieter Van der Borcht and Bernard Salomon for their series for the Metamorphoses of Ovid (1557 and 1591). I've found a comparison between Salomons print of Vertumnus and Pomona and the drawing of Fantuzzi in Sluijter's 'Heydensche Fabulen' (page 381). But I also see some similarities with this print by master L.D. after Francesco

Posted by: Hendrik Veuchelen on August 4, 2007 05:03 PM
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