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Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague

Metzler, Sally
2014
380 pages
313 illustrations
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The Flemish artist Bartholomeus Spranger (1546–1611) was a master of Mannerism, serving a cardinal, a pope, and two Holy Roman Emperors—most notably, as court painter for Rudolf II in Prague. Unlike most artists of the period, he defies classification as “Northern” or “Southern”; instead, Spranger became one of the first truly international artists, achieving his greatest success in Central Europe after spending a crucial decade in Italy. Favoring an elegant style, virtuoso technique, and erotically charged subjects, he was particularly celebrated for his amorously entwined nudes. In addition, he created paintings, drawings, and prints of evocative religious and political allegories, as well as atmospheric landscapes and a few rare portraits, all of which offer an abundance of visual pleasure.

Despite the widespread fame and influence he attained during his lifetime, Spranger has become an elusive and misunderstood figure. Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague is the first book in English to be devoted to his art and life. It contains four sections—on paintings, drawings, etchings, and engravings related to his work—that chronicle his stylistic genesis and capture the complexity of his prolific oeuvre. Examining Spranger’s career against the backdrop of European culture, politics, and intellectual history, the book traces his artistic journey from Antwerp to Prague, with sojourns along the way in France, Italy, and Vienna. The detailed catalogue entries, including several newly discovered works, illuminate his development and reshape our understanding of it. The result is a major contribution to art history, restoring Bartholomeus Spranger to his rightful position as one of the most important and influential artists of the era.

Met Art in Publication

Insects and the Head of a Wind God, Joris Hoefnagel  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, colored washes, gold paint, on vellum
ca. 1590–1600
Satyrs and Nymphs; verso: partial counterproof of Heintz's "Studies for the Flight into Egypt" in The Courtauld Gallery, London, Joseph Heintz the Elder  Swiss, Brush and black ink, red chalk, gray and sanguine washes, heightened with white gouache, over black chalk and graphite underdrawing, incised, on off-white paper prepared with yellow wash, laid down to another sheet of laid paper; verso of secondary support: partial offset of a drawing in black and red chalk
ca. 1599
Venus and Adonis, Giorgio Ghisi  Italian, Engraving
ca. 1570
Classical Battle Scene; Verso: Peter and John Heal a Cripple at the Gate of the Temple, Bartholomeus Spranger  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, heightened with white, over red chalk on blue paper. Partially visible framing lines in pen and brown ink on left and bottom edges
ca. 1590
Neptune and Amphitrite, Bartholomeus Spranger  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, brown wash
mid-16th–early 17th century
Diana and Actaeon, Bartholomeus Spranger  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, brush and brown and gray wash, white heightening, over traces of black chalk, on paper washed blue and pink
ca. 1580–85
Venus and Amor, Bartholomeus Spranger  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, light and dark brown and gray wash, heightened with white (partially oxidized); traced for transfer.
ca. 1585
Plate 2: Ops standing in a niche with her hands at her breasts, looking to her left, with animals behind her, from "Mythological Gods and Goddesses"
, Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio  Italian, Engraving; third state of three (TIB)
1526
Saint John the Evangelist, Bartholomeus Spranger  Netherlandish, Etching
ca. 1596
St Dominic Reading, Cornelis Cort  Netherlandish, Engraving
1573
Saint Anthony, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Elizabeth, Crispijn de Passe the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving
Multiple artists/makers
1582–1637
Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint John the Baptist, Antonius Wierix, II  Netherlandish, Engraving
Multiple artists/makers
Before 1604
Saint Francis, Johann Sadeler I  Netherlandish, Engraving
ca. 1582
Saint Dominic, Johann Sadeler I  Netherlandish, Engraving
ca. 1582
Saint Jerome, Johann Sadeler I  Netherlandish, Engraving
1568–1600
Adam and Eve, Hendrick Goltzius  Netherlandish, Engraving
1585
Adam and Eve, Albrecht Dürer  German, Engraving
1504
The Dead Saviour Supported by an Angel, Hendrick Goltzius  Netherlandish, Engraving
1587
The Body of Christ Supported by Three Angels, Agostino Veneziano (Agostino dei Musi)  Italian, Engraving
1516
Neptune and Caenis, Johann Sadeler I  Netherlandish, Bronze, with dark brown lacquer patina, probably Netherlandish
late 16th–early 17th century
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