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BERRETTINI, Pietro a.k.a. PIETRO DA CORTONA (1596-1669)

Tabulae anatomicae ex archetypis egregii pictoris Petri Berrettini Cortonensis expressae et in aes incisae Opus chirurgis et pictoribus apprime necessarium alteram hanc editionem recensuit nothas iconas expunxit perpetuas explicationes adjecit Franciscus Petraglia.
Romae, impensis Venantii Monaldini, 1788.

Second and most beautiful edition of this remarkable series of plates, without doubt one of the most dramatic and artistically important anatomical atlases. The copperplates were hidden for over a hundred years. It is thought that Pietro began to work on these anatomical drawings in 1618 and that they were engraved shortly afterwards by Luca Ciamberlano (his monogram is found on plate 4). The publication of Pietro da Cortona’s plates was undertaken by Gaetano Petrioli, surgeon to Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, who had also come into possession of Eustachius’ celebrated plates of which he published revised editions after the death of Lancisi, who had edited the first edition in 1714. Petrioli prepared the first edition (Rome 1741) of Pietro’s plates by adding a commentary, which has little anatomical value, as well as he crowded the first nineteen plates with a number of small accessory figures taken from the works of Andreas Vesalius, Giulio Casseiro and others, and which were drawn and engraved in the eighteenth century. This second edition edited by Petraglia has all the accessory figures on the first 19 plates erased, those that had been added by Petrioli, so that Pietro da Cortona’s figures stand out better. The title vignette represents a dissecting scene in Ancient Rome, the charming headpiece of the preface probably represents Polyphemus. The headpiece on page 1 shows the interior of an anatomical theatre. The first twenty plates deals chiefly with muscles, nerves and blood vessels, with the nerves everywhere emphasized, leading to the conclusion that they were originally intended to illustrate a text on neurology. Plates 21-23 deal with the brain, the eye, and the ear, plate 24 represents the cutaneos veins and valves of the veins, plate 25 represents the spinal column and the spinal cord, plate 26 shows three skeletons in Vesalius’ style. The only female body is seen in plate 27. A side figure shows the uterus with a foetus.

Collation: Pp xv, (1), 104, with 27 engraved plates with protective tissue paper, all plates printed in sepia, except for Leo Ghezzi’s engraved vignette on page 1, which is coloured in sepia by hand. Engraved initials and head-pieces. Title in red and black. Both text and plates printed on blueish paper, extra thick and strong, with ample margins (70 mm).

Binding: Contemporary marbled brown calf with gilt floral border around sides. The gilt Napoleonic eagle on thunderbolts, with the head turned to the right, repeated in six spine compartments, green morocco spine label. Gilt inner dentelles. Strikingly pink endpapers! Marbled edges.

Provenance: The eagle on the spine and the beauty of the book indicates a presentation copy for the Emperor Napoleon, or someone in the imperial family. (Possibly a gift to his ex-fiancée Desideria (1777-1860), later married to Carl XIV Johan of Sweden). Note on front endpaper: “Emanuel Harlin presenté de Thomas Aspelin”. Emanuel Harlin (1794-1824); Carl J. Sandahl (1818-1889).

References: Garrison & Morton, 395.2 (First ed. 1741); Norman, J. The Anatomical Plates of Pietro da Cortona. 27 Baroque Masterpieces. (New York, 1986), with a bibliography; Choulant/ Frank, History and Bibliography of Anatomical Illustration, 1962, pp 235-39. Waller 983.

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