ZANI, Valerio. Memorie imprese, e ritratti de’ Signori accademici Gelati di Bologna.

Bologna, Per li Manolessi., 1672

Quarto (210 x 146 mm.), allegorical title-page with a view of Bologna in the background, full page portrait of the dedicatee Cardinal Francesco Barberini, a second engraved title-page with the emblem of the Accademia after Agostino Carracci, 31 full page portraits, woodcut head-pieces and tail-pieces, woodcut vignette. A worm track in the first three pages, a few spots, a paper flaw on page E1; overall a very good copy in contemporary vellum with manuscript title on spine.The first edition of this superbly engraved book celebrating with portraits and imprese the most important members of the Accademia dei Gelati, a major Italian intellectual circle of the early modern period.Based in Bologna, the Accademia was established in 1588 by Melchiorre Zoppio and the brothers Gessi as an elite circle to foster intellectual activities. It boasted among its members popes, noblemen and letterati, and, it has been suggested, even a few artists, as secondary members, including Agostino Carracci and Giuseppe Maria Mitelli. The Accademia showcased the talent of its associates through printed collections of verse, severely assessed by an inside ‘censorship' (Perini, ‘L'Accademia', 115).Dedicated to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Memorie is a handsome example of the fashionable 17th-century genre of illustrated biographies, inspired by an interest in physiognomy and portraiture as an insight into a person's character (Testa, ‘Italian Academies', 201). The work provides indeed a pantheon of deceased and living academicians. Deceased members were celebrated with a portrait and an impresa, whilst living ones were identified through their impresa alone, which they had themselves devised. The work features 103 superb engravings by the artists Laur. Tintus after I.M. Mitelli and Agostino Carracci (who had originally designed the impresa of the academy), and Hubertus van Otteren. The first portrait is of the dedicatee, Cardinal Barberini; it is followed by a first section with 31 portraits of major historical members of the academy, and a second with 71 imprese. As explained in the preface, models for the portraits reproduced were generously provided by relatives or acquaintances of the late academicians, though several had to be excluded due to the impossibility of retrieving their likeness.‘The systematic employment of emblems by academicians distinguishes the Accademia dei Gelati from other academies of the time, while a theme of self-irony can be detected in some of the emblems. Thus, the portrait could be considered a tribute to the deceased academician, while the emblem represented its playful side. […] the invention of a personal emblem by each academician was not a common feature of all academies' (Testa, ‘Italian Academies', 203).WorldCat locates 14 copies in the US (Huntington, Getty, Yale, Trinity College, Princeton, Pierpont Morgan, Penn, NGA, Cornell, Penn State, BYU, Folger, Minnesota, Chicago). COPAC locates 7 in the UK (including BL and Oxford).Landwehr, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Emblem Books, 8; Praz, Studies in 17th-century imagery (2nd ed.), 245. Not in Brunet. G. Perini, ‘Ut pictura poesis: L'Accademia dei Gelati e le arti figurative', in Italian Academies of the 16th Century, ed. D.S. Chambers and F. Quiviger (London, 1995), 113-26; S. Testa, ‘Italian Academies and Their “Facebooks”', in The Italian Academies 1525-1700, ed. J.E. Everson et al. (Cambridge, 2016), 197-212.


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