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The Genius of Castiglione

Born in Genoa, Castiglione was inspired by the antiquities that he saw when he traveled to Rome in the 1630s. This print clearly reflects his full assimilation of the compositional and narrative devices of the classical tradition. Rather than simply adapting a mythological motif, Castiglione reinvents the classical style as an autobiographical allegory on production and fame in the arts and music.

The artist is represented by the handsome youth holding a book and a trumpet, while posed as a classical river god. The laurel wreath and putto in the upper left symbolize fame, while the rabbit and basket of birds suggest fruitfulness. Although the sheet music and palette in the foreground provide specific reference to the arts, it is unclear whether the female figure in the central bust is an allusion to the arts, a muse, or fate.

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Italian, 1609–1664
The Genius of Castiglione
ca. 1645–47/published 1648
Etching on paper
Image: 14 7/16 x 9 7/8 in. (36.7 x 25.1 cm); sheet: 14 9/16 x 9 13/16 in. (37.0 x 24.9 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Collection of Diether Thimme, 98.252