RENÉ BOYVIN or workshop Angers c. 1525 – c. 1625-30 active in Paris
A Muse Playing a Viola.
Engraving, after Luca Penni. Robert-Dumesnil 66: only state. A brilliant impression in fine condition, traces of glue verso, with thread margins in places or trimmed just outside the border. Extremely rare; we have never seen the print in trade.
Robert-Dumesnil’s description of this engraving as A Muse attempts to pay tribute to music as one of the arts; this abstract title does not, however, do justice to what must be seen as one of Boyvin’s or his school’s minor masterpieces. Although a reasonable argument can be made to reinforce the title, the identity of the musician as a muse is beside the point. Our young violist is entranced by the evocative power of the music she plays: she bends forward, her mouth open in ecstasy, with her eyes focused on her instrument. She is above all a musician at one with her art, rather than merely a symbol of artistic activity. As an image of passionate involvement with the power of music, few if any images of this period, graphic, or other, can compare to its intensity.
Described most recently in The French Renaissance in Prints, exhibition catalogue, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, 1994, cat. no. 88, pp 327-329, as Workshop of Boyvin, on the grounds that while the engraving has a simple manner that lends geometric solidity to form but does not show the balance of precision and detail of the master’s autograph works, the engraving is damned with faint praise.
The problem may have arisen on account of the impression used in the catalogue, which appears to be quite dry and gives the image a flatness and lack of immediacy. Our impression, though, dramatizes the pools of deep shadow throughout, and, especially the light playing on the figure of the young woman to concentrate the image. The image is indeed different from many of the other autograph Boyvin engravings in depicting a solitary spiritual moment rather than a dazzling multiplicity of decorative forms or a highly charged narrative from antiquity. The engraving style is direct rather than rudimentary, as our musician, characterized as a young woman without the rhetorical accoutrements of Antiquity, bathed in light and placed close to the viewer need only be articulated by a combination of contours and shadows. The attribution of this engraving may never be precisely known; the exceptional character of the sheet is, however, not open to question.
Sheet: 141 x 233 mm 5 5/8 x 9 3/16 inches
See The French Renaissance in Prints, exhibition catalogue, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Los Angeles, 1994, cat. no. 88, written by David Acton, pp. 325-327.
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