'Les Incroyables'

Lucini, Antonio Francesco (1605/10-1661).

Compendio dell’Armi de’ Caramogi D’Ant. Fran. Lucini. Florence [i.e., Paris?], F. L. D. Chartres excud. [i.e., François L’Anglois, dit Chartres], 1627.

Lucini, Antonio Francesco (1605/10-1661) Compendio dell’Armi de’ Caramogi D’Ant. Fran. Lucini. Florence [i.e., Paris?], F. L. D. Chartres excud. [i.e., François L’Anglois, dit Chartres], 1627.

Twenty-three of twenty-five numbered etchings and engravings, including the title image (78-81x117-120 mm), all with large margins (each leaf measuring 198x141 mm). Lacking plates nos. 13 and 24. Unidentified blason watermark. Loose sheets, matted and preserved in a modern half-calf box. Minor fingermarks and other stains in outer blank margins of some leaves; pale waterstain or discolouration at the outer margin of some prints; minor bleeding at outside border of print no. 18, not affecting image; print no. 6 includes very minor staining within image. Most prints have a very slight amount of wash colour – always at the headgear and often barely noticeable – the casual 'doodling' of an early collector. Plate no. 2 includes the inked inscription, in an early hand, 'Les Incroyables', now slightly faded, in margin above image.

Exceedingly rare suite of prints showing armed caramogi, i.e., dwarfs, engaged in duels or carrying a variety of weapons, a satire of the macabre jousts held in seventeenth-century Florence during Carnival, and a 'little known' (Viatte) addition to the corpus of Florentine caricature or grotesques which Baldinucci termed “invenzione bizzarrissima”. Lucini (or Luccini) is said to have been in the circle – perhaps as a disciple – of the outstanding French engraver Jacques Callot, first in Florence (1616), and subsequently in Nancy. He is famous for his engravings after Stefano della Bella, and for all the engravings in the great sea atlas Arcano del Mare, (1646-1647), an immense undertaking of twelve years' duration which very likely contains the most beautifully engraved and calligraphed maps ever executed.

“The Compendio dell'armi de' caramogi (Compendium of caramogi weapons) of 1627 is a rare edition of 25 prints [...] Without a doubt, Luccini was familiar with the Gobbi series and other dwarf imagery by Callot, under whom he had studied [...] Luccini's combination of bizarre costume, ugly physique and grotesque violence produced an amusing parody of dueling. The prints illustrate dwarfs using a variety of weapons (several operate diverse types of cannons). Many of the images feature pairs of doughy-looking dwarfs battling with swords, knives and lances. The dwarfs wrestle ferociously, often stabbing and slicing the limbs off one another. The contrast between the appearance of the lumpish dwarfs and the brutal nature of the fighting created a paradox – small creatures exhibiting excessive carnality – that would have been highly entertaining for the early modern audience” (S. Cheng, “Parodies of Life”, pp. 132-133).

The suite was published by the Parisian printer and occasional engraver Francois L'Anglois (or Langlois; 1588-1647), dit Chartres. His signature – 'F. L. D. Chartres excud.' - appears only the title, as none of the other plates are signed. Accordingly, it may be an error to consider 'in Firenze An. MDCXXVII' the place of publication, which would more likely be Paris, while the Tuscan city would have been the place where Lucini invented his Caramogi.

In this set, an early French hand has written, in the upper margin of plate no. 2, 'Les Incroyables', a feature which could suggest – alongside the mention of François L'Anglois on the title-page at least a French circulation, if not its Paris publication. We have located only three copies of this series: one complete copy is in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, in the Marolles album devoted to caricature and ornament (BnF, Cabinet des Estampes, Res. Tf-1-Fold, Marolles N° 222; reproduced in its entirety by Viatte); a second one, lacking one plate, is at the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana, in Vicenza; and a third set containing only twelve plates in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. If it was ever more widespread, the survival rate of such engraved suites is tenuous indeed, whether because they were so antithetical to the main currents of Florentine art, or because of their hypothetically 'popular' character – notwithstanding some of the towering names associated with it. One could well imagine that the pleasure they offered was ephemeral, and that only they began to be collected from the seventeenth century onwards. In fact, one of the greatest print collectors of all time, Michel de Marolles (1600-1681), included Lucini's Compendio dell'Armi de' Caramogi in the same album as his series of Songes Drolatiques Allemands (see no. 173) as outstanding examples of pieces facétièuses et bouffonnes; it is with great pride that we are able to offer both such outstanding examples in the present catalogue.

F. Viatte, “Allegorical and Burlesque Subjects by Stefano della Bella”, Master Drawings, 15 (1977). pp. 347-365; S. Cheng, “Parodies of Life: Baccio del Bianco's comic drawings of dwarfs”, D. R. Smith (ed.), Parody and Festivity in Early Modern Art. Essays on Comedy as Social Vision, Farnham 2012, pp. 127-142; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 193.

$ 28.000