WOLFF, Jeremias (1663-1724)
[Angelo Constantini as Mezzetin] Ange Constantin dit Mezetin
Augsburg: Published in Augsburg by Jeremias Wolff. circa 1695. Engraving with superb early colour and rich gold highlights. Printed on watermarked laid paper. In excellent condition. Image size: 9 5/8 x 6 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 14 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches. Plate mark: 10 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches.
This is a handsome print, with breathtaking early colour, depicting the actor Ange Constantin in costume.
Angelo Constantini (d. 1729) was one of the pillars of the commmedia dell'arte in Paris from 1682 until 1697, when Louis XIV closed it down. He was the author of Vie de Scaramouche, 1692, and had a devoted following for his singing and expressive acting. The character he made famous was Mezzetin or Mezzetino, a scheming, clever, flirtatious servant. Constantini later went to Dresden to form an Italian acting troupe under the patronage of Augustus II, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony. Very unwisely, Constantini became involved with Augustus' mistress and was imprisoned for many years. Finally, he released when he was in his sixties, he returned to Paris for some very successful performances, and later on to Verona, his birthplace, where he died in 1729. This bold print is from a colourful series of costume prints engraved and published by Jeremias Wolff at the beginning of the 18th century. The series depicts prancing figures in flamboyant theatrical costumes, and is a superb example of early costume prints. Costume and trade prints, such as this, became extremely popular in Europe at the close of the seventeenth century and continued to serve as a source of inspiration until the decadent days of the Art Deco movement in the 1920's. This magnificent series depicts the costumes of ballet dancers, and opera singers, as well as the vibrant apparel of a jester at a masque ball. As is typical of this genre of print, the figures are pictured in front of an architectural or pastoral background and richly coloured in thick opaque colour with vibrant gold highlights. The series was executed and produced by the prolific German publisher Jeremias Wolff. Wolff came from a family of engravers and became extremely successful, both as an engraver and as a publisher and printseller. He was one of the most prolific publishers and engravers in Augsburg and is responsible for some of the finest engravings to come out of the city. In addition to a number of other costume books and portraits, he was a successful map publisher and it is for his skill as a cartographic engraver that he is perhaps best known. The series in not mentioned in either Colas or Lipperheide.
Colas, Bibliographie General du Costume et de la Mode; Lipperheide, Katalog der Freiherrlich von Lipperheide'schen Kostum-Bibliothek, 1896-1901. Mantzius, A History of Theatrical Art in Ancient and Modern Times. 1903.