SpeakerDaniel De Simone

Institution Library of Congress

SubjectBizzarie di varie figure

Giovanni Battista Braccelli’s designs are unique in this history of book illustration and represent a highpoint in the Mannerist style of etching that flourished in the seventeenth century. Mannerism is characterized by the incorporation of the techniques of the Renaissance but the rejection of classical imagery and harmonious style that is the hallmark of much of fifteenth and sixteenth century European art. Braccelli’s Bizzarie di varie figure contains a suite of fifty etchings that celebrate the human figure in geometric forms, where squares, triangles, circles, and parallelograms, take the place of muscle, bone, and tissue and the body is defined by a new visual vocabulary. This suite of etchings is very rare and this copy from the Rosenwald Collection is the most complete copy recorded. The work has had considerable effect on later generations of artists and Braccelli’s figures were adopted by the Surrealists during the middle of the twentieth century. This group of modern artists recognized Braccelli’s geometric forms and lavished praise on his ability to invest these mechanical images with graceful, human qualities. Some of the etchings also portray human emotion in action, as when figures dance across the page or struggle with one another in mortal combat.