Detail from [The Recorder Lesson] by Giovanni Cattini, after a drawing by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, 18th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a drawing by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, painter and draughtsman, 1682-1754
This is a beautifully etched head-and-shoulder-length portrait of two men. The young man in a cap, in the center, holds an open score. The other man, in left profile at the right, wearing a striped garment with his back to the viewer, plays a recorder. Both men gaze downward. In 1743, Giovanni Cattini produced a series of fourteen plates, plus a frontispiece, entitled Icones ad vivum expressae which were based on drawings called têtes de caractère by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. These original drawings by Piazzetta were highly prized by collectors. They were not really portraits, except for the self-portrait of Piazzetta that served as the engraved frontispiece for the Icones series by Cattini. Piazzetta's character heads were really genre subjects, simple head-and-shoulder figures arranged in pairs or small groupings. Around 1745, Cattini gave up his career as an engraver, but his etchings and engravings for the Icones were celebrated in Europe and were distributed widely.
Later editions of the Icones were published in 1754, 1763 and 1767, though the edition of 1767 only contained eight plates. It is not known from which edition the Miller etching was derived. Since the Miller etching is numbered "IX," it may have come from one of the first three editions - 1743, 1754, or 1763 - but this is not certain, thus a date of mid-18th century is given here.
The Cattini etching in the Miller collection was included in The Pipers: An Exhibition of Engravings, Watercolors and Lithographs from the Dayton C. Miller Collection, Library of Congress, March 1977. A translation of the inscription on this etching in The Pipers exhibition list, reads: "This is given as a token of enduring respect to his excellency Sebastiano Molin, Senator of Venice, a most learned cultivator of the fine arts."
About the Artists
Giovanni Cattini, engraver, ca. 1715-1804
Giovanni Cattini was an Italian engraver who was born in Venice about 1715 and who died in the same city in 1804. His earliest engravings seem to date to about 1736 and he also provided engravings for a book on ancient Greek and Roman statuary, published in Venice in 1740 and 1743, to which Gianantonio Faldoni and Marco Alvise Pitteri, his teachers, also contributed plates. Cattini did reproductive engravings of portraits and other subjects after artists such as Sebastiano Ricci and Tiepolo, and also produced engravings for book illustrations. His most famous and finest etchings and engravings were his copies of Piazzetta's drawings for Icones ad vivum expressae first published in Venice in 1743 and which appeared in several other editions in the mid-18th century.
Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, painter and draughtsman, 1682-1754
Giovanni Batttista Piazzetta was an Italian painter and draughtsman who was born in Venice in 1682 and who died in the same city in 1754. Piazzetta's early training was in Venice, but he later studied in Bologna under Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747), a painter, draughtsman and printmaker. He was also much influenced by the paintings of Guercino (1591-1666), which he saw in Bologna. Piazzetta's figural work in painting and in drawing is characterized by a wonderful sculptural quality created by his subtle use of chiaroscuro. His portrait drawings and character heads were much sought after by collectors. He also provided drawings to be used as illustrations for books, among the finest of which were his drawings for Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, published by Albrizzi in Venice in 1745. Many of Piazzetta's works were engraved by artists such as Pitteri, Cattini, and Bartolozzi. The engravings by Bartolozzi and Pitteri after Piazzetta's paintings were published by Albrizzi in 1760 as Studi de pittura, a learning guide for artists. In 1750, Piazzetta was appointed director of the Venice Academy of Fine Arts.
- The information on Piazzetta and Cattini's engravings after his drawings comes from an exhibition on Piazzetta, held in Washington, DC, at the National Gallery of Art in 1983. See George Knox, Piazzetta: A tercentenary exhibition of drawings, prints, and books. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1983, pp. 25-26, 28, 30 and p. 86, cat. no. 25. In a Web site, Recorder Iconography, compiled by Nicholas S. Lander, there is an engraving, The Recorder Lesson, Private Collection, Venice, with nearly the same dimensions as the Miller etching. (These prints by Cattini after Piazzetta are most often referred to as engravings. The Miller print does have some engraving, but it seems to be mostly etched, thus the media for it is given here as an etching rather than purely engraving.) There is also a very similar painting by Piazzetta entitled, Two Boys Making Music, which was auctioned on August 5, 2001. There is a link to an image of it in the Recorder Iconography Web site. See Nicholas S. Lander, Recorder Iconography, under Piazzetta, for text, with link to image of the painting. [back to article]
- The sources used here for biographical information on Cattini are the following: an article by Dario Succi, "Giovanni Cattini," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only); and, George Knox, Piazzetta: A tercentenary exhibition of drawings, prints, and books. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1983. Though Succi gives Cattini's life dates as ca. 1715-ca. 1800, George Knox gives his dates as ca. 1715-1804, which are used here. [back to article]
- The information on Piazzetta described here was derived from an article by Adriano Mariuz, "Piazzetta," in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online; and a short article by Hugh Brigstocke, "Giovanni Battista Piazzetta," in the Oxford Companion to Western Art which is available online via Oxford Art Online (both by subscription only). Two of the most comprehensive sources on Piazzetta are: George Knox, Piazzetta: A tercentenary exhibition of drawings, prints, and books. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1983; and, George Knox, Giambattista Piazzetta, 1682-1754. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. LC call number: ND623.P54K58 1992. Specific information on Piazzetta's têtes de caractère (character heads) is given in Knox's Piazzetta: A tercentenary exhibition..., pp. 25-26, 28, 30, and p. 86, cat. no. 25. Information on Piazzetta's character heads is also given in an exhibition catalogue by Frances Vivian, The Consul Smith Collection: Masterpieces of Italian Drawing from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, Raphael to Canaletto. Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1989, pp. 104-106. LC call number: NC255.V55 1989. [back to article]