Giovanni Paolo CIMERLINI: The Aviary of Death - c. 1570



Etching and engraving, 434 x 597 mm. Bartsch 36 (attributed to Battista Angolo del Moro); Palladio e Verona, XI, 38.

Fine impression printed on laid paper with watermark (coat of arms). Impression trimed on or just outside the platemark. Usual vertical central fold. A few small stains and creases, a small tear in the bottom left corner. Generally in good condition.

Adam Bartsch is convinced that an engraving to which he gives the title L'Oiselerie de la Mort [The Aviary of Death] is by Battista Angolo del Moro. However David Landau thinks, along with Maria Catelli Isola, that it is not the same print: Landau is surprised that Bartsch shouldn't mention the angel in the sky, or the inscriptions that have been erased at the bottom of the print, or the flayed man under the tree to the left of the picture. Today this engraving is attributed to Cimerlini, whose Landscape with Saint Christopher, signed and dated 1568, is the work most similar to The Aviary of Death.

It is possible that there was a first state of the engraving with inscriptions in the centre bottom and a coat of arms in the shield held by the angel. However, no impression of this state is known.

The Aviary of Death features several scenes evoking a manhunt conducted with the tools of the bird-catcher: in the centre, a skeleton is activating a lure with thread and a stick; on the left, a flayed man rests against a tree, seemingly waiting for his prey to land onto the stake planted in front of him; in the background, another skeleton lures three human preys into a net hung between trees, while prisoners vainly struggle to free themselves from a trap net.

Three groups are seemingly unaware of any danger and are peacefully absorbed in different occupations: in the centre, three men are studying a book; to the right, a couple listens to flute players; top left, on a terrace, another group is chatting without noticing that a tunnel opens underneath, which might lead to Hell, since a skeleton is climbing out of it; one of them, leaning on the parapet, is looking into the middle distance but seems unaware of the scene yet unfolding under his eyes.

David Landau notes that the theme of Death laying its snares, popular with German artists like Flötner or Schoen in the first half of the 16th century, was rather unusual in Italy. This engraving could have been inspired by a literary source.

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