Although the two drawings offered here are rather finished, and both are signed, they clearly represent Stradanus’s preliminary thoughts for the prints, not his final designs, and they are not indented for transfer to the copper plates. The final print of Venus is a very different image, showing her standing in a shell, turned away from the viewer, and without Cupid.2 In the title print, however, the representation of Venus is much closer to the present drawing; there, the general pose of Venus’s body, if not the position of her legs and arms, is very similar to that seen in the drawing, and in both images Cupid appears by her left arm, though facing in different directions.
Other drawings relating to this same print series include: two very similarly executed images of Apollo (representing the Sun) and Mars, both again showing the figures seated in clouds, and therefore closer to the title page than to the respective individual images in the engraved series3; two further drawings, depicting Mercury and Saturn, no longer known today but sold in the same lot as the present two drawings and those of Apollo and Mars, in the d’Aigremont sale of 1866 (see Provenance); another image of Mercury, dated 1587, which is very similar to the final print4; and two very sketchy, small preliminary studies, one for the title page, the other for the figure of Mars5. Together, all these drawings shed fascinating light on the imagination and working method of one of the most productive and innovative designers of prints in late 16th-century Antwerp.
1. The New Hollstein: Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts 1450-1700. The Collaert dynasty, Amsterdam 1993, 30, 33, no. 1306, reproduced
2. Ibid., pp. 31, 42, no. 1311, reproduced
3. Loppem Castle, Jean van Caloen Foundation; Baroni Vanucci, op. cit., nos. 456, 458, reproduced
4. Antwerp, Stedelijk Prentenkabinet, inv. D.III,23; Baroni Vanucci, op. cit., no. 454, reproduced
5. New York, Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, inv. nos. 1901-39-2640 v and 1901-39-306; Baroni Vanucci, op. cit., nos. 459, 460
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