Giovanni Battista Braccelli: Bizzarie Di Varie Figure

Giovanni Battista Braccelli: Bizzarie Di Varie Figure PC MAC CD-ROM art artist 






The fifty plates of the Bizzarie di varie figure (Oddities of various figures) are the liveliest and most original etchings of a highly creative, if little known, Florentine artist, Giovanni Battista Braccelli. Using small copper plates, Braccelli etched three introductory texts and forty-seven pictorial images. Many of the images in the Bizzarie depict pairs of dynamic figures constructed from fabricated elements wooden boxes or frames, square and round metal links, metal plates, cylindrical containers, braided hair, wooden screws, and twisted wax tapers; their poses suggest tumblers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, duelists, sportsmen, and actors. Bodies constructed of cubic forms are impossibly twisted and shaped to suggest deceptive stunts or magic tricks bodies gliding through themselves or each other. There are figures whose bodies are composed of lozenges similar to the black-and-white diamonds that adorn the costume of Harlequin, prancing extravagantly and gesticulating as if they were appearing on stage.

This copy of the Bizzarie, in the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, is the best preserved of only two complete copies, and the only one in North America. The Bizzarie exhibits characteristics of the artistic style called Mannerism, which originated in Italy in the sixteenth century and opposed the idealized naturalism of the Renaissance. Many Mannerist artists served nobility (in Braccellis case, the Medici), creating works of art that puzzled and amused. The pictorial plates in the Bizzarie are not numbered or marked, and as one turns the pages, the images seem to unfurl at random, producing an overall sense of surprise and capriciousness. It is not difficult to understand why Braccellis witty and original etchings engaged the imagination in their day, and continue to entertain in ours.

Commentary by Sue Welsh Reed, essay on intaglio etching.

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