My resources: Factotum figures of Celestina

Partly because I use this blog as an archive, partly because I am relatively satisfied with the result, let me share with my poster of the factotum figures of Celestina (editions in Spanish only).

I do not have digitisations of the missing figures, but they are not really wanting: Sev1502e should be the same as Sev1502a, Sev1502b, Sev1502c, Sev1502f, Sev 1525a, Sev1525b and Sev1528; Sev1535 and Sev1543 are supposedly the same as Sev1550; Zar 1554 and Zar1555 should be the same as Zar1545a; and Val1518 is the same as Val1514.

Despite looking similar, some factotum figures are not the same: Sev1502d and Sal1502 are not the same as Sev1502a, Sev1502b, Sev1502c, Sev1502e, Sev1502f, Sev 1525a, Sev1525b and Sev1528; Sev1523 and the first Ven1531 are the same, but not the second Ven1531 (is appears also in Sev1523, but I had overlooked that; I have to update my database) or Ven1534.

The Tol1538 factotum figure that appears completely isolated is an interesting case: it is normally used for the character of Alisa, but this edition repeatedly uses it for Celestina, so that I felt I had to include it, despite it looking like a mistake or the result of a sloppy composition. The last figure, Lis1540, is a special case, as well. The position of her hands invites to include her in the series she is in, but the resemblace is not very convincing.

If I am lucky, I will be able to start reflecting these relations in my database next month and do so for every factotum figure or, at least, the human ones. Wish me luck!

My resources: Some correspondences between the factotum figures of Grüninger’s edition of Terence’s Comoediae (1496) and those of the early Tragicomedias (Sevilla 1502 [1511] and Valencia 1514)

After having systematically related the human figures of the Burgos Comedia to the corresponding factotum figures of the Strasbourg, Johannes Grüninger, 1496 edition of Terence’s Comoediae, I have spent some time looking for the most likely models for the factotum figures of the earliest Tragicomedias, more concretely, the Crombergerian series and the Valencia 1514 series. Not surprisingly at all, both series are for the greatest part dependent on Grüninger’s edition as well, but they do not resort to the very same models

Some debts are really evident. For example, there is no doubt that several factotum figures of the Sevilla, Jacobo Cromberger, 1502 [1511] edition of the Tragicomedia are more or less free copies of certain factotum figures of Grüninger’s edition: at least eight out of nineteen. The figure representing Alisa in act XVI of the Tragicomedia is almost an exact copy of the figure of the Nutrix in Heautont timoroumenos. Mirror copies of Syrus, Sannio and Symo are used to represent Pármeno, Sempronio and Centurio (Syrus), Pármeno, Sosia and Centurio (Sannio), and Pleberio (Symo). Three of the young female figures are mirrored copies of young female figures in Grüninger’s edition up to their heads: headpieces and hairstyles are different, but everything else is alike. Something similar can be said of the factotum figure representing Celestina with a rosary in her hands, with both hands on her bosom: it looks as if Mirrhina’s factotum figure had been given a rosary.

Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], I
Heauton timoroumenos, fol. LXIXv
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], VI
Adelphoe, fol. XCIIr
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], VIII
Heauton timoroumenos, fol. LXIXv
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], III
Adelphoe, fol. XCVIIIv
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], IV
Eunuchus, fol. XXXIIIIv
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], XVI
Heauton timoroumenos, fol. LXXIIIIv
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], XVI
Andria, fol. IIIr
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], IV
Ecyra, fol. CLXVr
For Grüninger’s factotum figures, I use the digital facsimile of the Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt. For the Tragicomedia‘s factotum figures, I use my own research photos taken at the British Library.

By contrast, there are almost no direct correspondences between the human figures of the Valencia 1514 edition of the Tragicomedia and those of Grüninger’s edition. Only three out of the twenty-six different figures can be connected to another figure in Grüniger’s edition, and not as definitely as in the former case. The design for Melibea seems to have been taken from the design for Antiphila, with which it shares the headpiece, the position of the hands and, to a certain extent, the dress, despite some differences regarding the shoulders and the lenght of the overskirt. The design for Celestina in act IV is reminiscent of the representation of Syra in the full-page woodcut of the Ecyra, especially when it comes to the position of the hands, but their clothing is different: Celestina wears some kind of cloak that covers her almost entirely.

Tragicomedia, Valencia 1514, I and XTragicomedia, Valencia 1514, IV
Heautontimoroumenos, fol. LXIXv.Ecyra (title page), fol. CLVIr
For the Tragicomedia‘s factotum figures, I use the the B/W images of the portal ATENEX, but also the digital facsimile of the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.

However, the interesting bit is that, even when there is no direct correspondence between the human figures in Grüninger’s edition of Terence and the Spanish Tragicomedias, the influence of the former can be felt everywhere. This is particularly evident in the case of the figures that represent the servants and Centurio. For example, in the Valencia 1514 edition of the Tragicomedia, the doublet worn by Pármeno and Sempronio looks very much like the doublet worn by Therea, even in details: the slits on the front, the baggy embellishments on elbows and shoulders… Moreover, their breeches and hose (and the first Centurio’s and Sosia’s) look very much like Dorax’ (and like Sannio’s, in the case of the second Centurio). Sosia’s design even wears the turbant-like headpiece of Dorax’ representation in the full-page woodcut of Eunuchus, while the first Centurio holds a spearlike weapon in his hand that plays no role in his characterisation but is important for Dorax’. As a result, it seems as if these figures where created by combining elements that were present in some of Grüninger’s human figures.

Tragicomedia, Valencia 1514, I and IITragicomedia, Valencia 1514, II and VITragicomedia, Valencia 1514, XVII and XVTragicomedia, Valencia 1514, XVII
Eunuchus, fol. XXXVIrEunuchus (title page), fol. XLIXvAdelphoe, fol. XCIIEunuchus (title page), fol. XXVIIIv
In this order: Pármeno, Sempronio, Centurio, Sosia.

This is not exclusive of the factotum figures of the Valencia 1514 Tragicomedia. The Sevilla 1502 [1511] ones also convey a similar feeling. For example, there is something in the baggy sleeves of Sempronio and Dorio, and their similar posture, that make them look alike. The same aplies to the wrinkled piece of cloth in the neck of both Celestina and Lena, and the position of their hands.

Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], XII
Phormio, fol. CLXIr
Tragicomedia, Sevilla 1502 [1511], III
Ecyra, fol. CLIIr
Not so sure about these.

Furthermore, I cannot avoid thinking that there is something that feels “German” about how the servants and Centurio are dressed, but I might be wrong, as I am no 16th-century fashion specialist and, actually, striped hoses/breeches were very popular among Italians, as well, and probably fashionable in Spain at the beginning of the century.

In any case, as I see it, there is no doubt that the influence of Grüninger’s 1496 edition of Terence is also to be felt in the early Tragicomedias, but progressively reduced to a set of characteristics that can be combined to design new figures that make them different from the original but still reminds us of it. The so-created figures are then combined with new ones that are not dependent on Grüninger’s series and which, at first sight, try to reflect a more Spanish context. However, this is a topic for another post.

My resources: Correspondences between the full-page woodcuts and the factotum figures of Grüninger’s edition of Terence’s Comoediae (1496) and the Burgos Comedia (1499-1501)

That the woodcuts of the Burgos Comedia are inspired by the illustrations of Grüninger’s edition of Terence’s Comoediae (Strasbourg, 1496 and 1499) is a commonplace since Clara Louise Penney noted this relationship in her The Book Called “Celestina” in the Library of the Hispanic Society of America (1954). Several scholars have ellaborated on this statement, specially Erna Berndt-Kelley (“Mute Commentaries on a Text: The Illustrations of the Comedia de Calisto y Melibea“, 1993) and Clive Griffin (“Celestina‘s Illustrations”, 2001). However, as far as I know, none of the scholars that have devoted some time to exploring the relationship between the characters on the illustrations of the Burgos Comedia and the Strasbourg Comoediae has published a detailed and systematic comparison of the illustrations of both editions, nor identified the exact models for each figure. Therefore, I am sharing with you my own research materials on this topic. While this gets a final written, publishable form, please acknowledge this post if you are using it in your own research.

The tables below include a visual comparison of the individual characters of the Burgos Comedia with their potential counterparts in Grüninger’s Comoediae. Certainty varies from figure to figure, in particular in the case of the most secondary figures, but there are a few quite sure identifications: Calisto’s, Melibea’s, Alisa’s, Pleberio’s and most of Sempronio’s and Pármeno’s.

For this purpose, I have used the digital facsimiles of the Burgos Comedia and the Strasbourg Comoediae respectively available at TeXTReD and the digital library of the Universitäts und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt.


Act I, fol. a1r [a2r]Eunuchus, factotum figure, fol. XXXVIIIv.
Act I, fol. a1v [a2v]Eunuchus, full-page woodcut, fol. XXVIIIv.Eunuchus, factotum figure, fol. XXXv.
In the first case, identification with the factotum figure of Traso in “Eunuchus” needs no further explanation. Figures are inverted but identical. In the second case, identification with Traso, as portrayed in the full-page initial woodcut of “Eunuchus”, needs no further explanation either, but it is worth taking the factotum figure of Parmeno in the same work into account because of the darker stripes.


Act I, fol. a1r [a2r]Heautontimoroumenos, factotum figure, fol. XLIr.
Act XII, fol. i7r.Eunuchus, full-page woodcut, fol. XXVIIIv.
Act XIV, fol. i2v.Ecyra, full-page woodcut, fol. CLVIr.
In the first case, the identification with the factotum figure of Pitias in “Heautontimoroumenos” is widely known. However, I have not seen the richly dressed Melibea of act XII identified with the Thais of the full-page initial woodcut of “Eunuchu”s, despite their dresses and hairstyles being identical, but inverted. Less evident is the identification with the factotum figure of Bacchis in “Ecyra”, but it is the only figure that justifies Melibea’s hairstyle and direct look into the reader’s eyes.


Act I, fol. a1v [a2v]Phormio, full-page woodcut, fol. CXVIv.
Act II, fol. c2r.Heautontimoroumenos, factotum figure, fol. LXIXv.
Act III, fol. c5v.Phormio, factotum figure, fol. CXLv.
In the first and the second cases, the identification with, respectively, the Phedria of the sull-page initial woodcut of “Phedria” and the factotum figure of Clinia in “Heautontimoroumenos” (although this is one of the factotum figures that appears more frequently in Grüninger’s edition, most of the time without any name in the band above his head) is quite self-evident, despite inversion. I am not do sure of the third example, however, I considered it relevant because Geta’s factotum figure in “Phormio” is the only one that wears the cape in a way similar to how Sempronio wears his in the Burgos “Comedia”. Their swords also hang very similarly. The head is, however, the same as in the previous cases.


Act II, fol. c2r.Andria, factotum figure, fol. IXv.
Act IX, fol. g8v.Heautontimoroumenos, full-page woodcut, fol. LXIIIv.
Parmeno’s identification is not as self-evident as in the previous cases, but I think that it is still very clear. In the first case, it is true that there are some differences regarding the factotum figure of Carinus in “Andria” (how the sword hangs, the jerkin’s lenght) but the general impression is quite similar. In the second case, the stripes of Clitipho’s factotum figure in “Heautontimoroumenos” are too representative for an influence not having taken place, even if the hats are different.


Act I, fol. a1v [a2v]Heautontimoroumenos, full-page woodcut, fol. LXIIIv.Ecyra, full-page woodcut, fol. CLVIr; factotum figure, fol. CLXVr.
Act III, fol. c5v.Ecyra, full-page woodcut, fol. CLVIr.
Act X, fol. h7r.Ecyra, factotum figure, fol. CLIIr.Heautontimoroumenos, factotum figure, fol. LXXIIIIv.
Act XI, fol. i4r.Heautontimoroumenos, full-page woodcut, fol. LXIIIv.
Celestina has many models, but the main ones are the Sostrata of the full-page intial woodcut of “Heautontimoroumenos”, the Mirina of the full-page intial woodcut of “Ecyra” and the factotum figure of Sira in the same work. All of them share the bag that hangs to the side of Celestina in the Burgos “Comedia”. The pleats of Celestina’s skirt derive, by contrast, from several factotum figures representing old-woman or lenae-like characters. Similarly, the positions of her hands can sometimes be associated to these factotum figures.


Act III, fol. c5v.Phormio, factotum figure, fol. CXLIXr.Adelphae, full-page woodcut, fol. LXXXVIr.
Act IX, fol. g8v.Phormio, full-page woodcut, fol. CXVIv.Adelphae, factotum figure, fol. XCVIIIv.
To identify Elicia, I focused on her hairstyle. In both cases, I consider my first proposed model to be more likely than the second one. However, the second options are to be considered as well.


Act IX, fol. g8v.Ecyra, full-page woodcut, fol. CLVIr.Phormio, full-page woodcut, fol. CXVIv.
As in Elicia’s case, I focused on Areúsa’s hairstyle. Equally, the first proposed model seems much more likely thann the second one to me, but it is worth taking it into account.


Act XV, fol. l5r.Andria, full-page woodcut, fol. Iv.Andria, factotum figure, fol. IIIr.
Pleberio’s identification with the character of Symo in “Andria”, either as factotum figure or as the design for the full-page initial woodcut, is self-evident and known since long.


Act X, fol. h7r.Ecyra, full-page woodcut, fol. CLVIr.
Despite inversion, Alisa’s identification with the Sostrata of the full-page initial woodcut of “Ecyra” is quite self-evident as well. In some instances, the Burgos artist does neither include the rosary/necklace nor the flower shaped detail on Alisa’s neckline, but it is very clearly the same figure.


Act IX, fol. g8v.Eunuchus, full-page woodcut, fol. XXVIIIv.
This is one of the less convinving identificatios, however, the Ethiopissa of the full-page initial woodcut of “Eunuchus” is the only female character that bows her head, a characterising feature of Lucrecia’s representation in the Burgos “Comedia”, so that it could be relevant. Moreover, the heairstyle and the dress are very similar.


Act XIII, fol. k8r.Phormio, factotum figure, fol. CXXIIIv.Adelphae, factotum figure, fol. XCIIIv.
Sosia’s identification is even less convincing than Lucrecia’s, with elements from both the factotum figure of Thesipho in “Adelphae” (head) and the factotum figure of Demiphos in “Phormio” (clothing). However, the main features are from Demiphos, so that the Burgos artist could simply have designed a more appropriate head for Sosia, who is not an old man with beard. Not for nothing, his head looks similar to other servant’s heads.


Act XIII, fol. k8r.Adelphae, full-page woodcut, fol. LXXXVIr.Adelphae, factotum figure, fol. XCr.
Tristán’s identification is not very convincing, either. I see similarities with the character of Eschimus as both factotum figure and element of the full-page initial woodcut of “Adelphae”, for example, the position of the hands, the cape and the hat. Therefore, I think this should be taken into account.
Act IV, fol. d4v.Adelphae, factotum figure, fol. CXIIIr.
Act X, fol. h7r.Heautontimoroumenos, factotum figure, fol. LXIIIIv.
Finally, I am quite convinced of the influence of the factotum figure of Clitipho in “Heautontimoroumenos” for the second representation of Alisa’s page, but not so much of the influence of the factotum figure of Demea in “Adelphae” on the first. However, clothes are exactly the same, so that it is not unlikely that there was an influence.


Act XII, fol. i7r.Eunuchus, page-wide woodcut, fol. XLIXv.Eunuchus, full-page woodcut, fol. XXVIIIv.
One of the most evident debts of the Burgos “Comedia” with Grüninger’s edition of Terence’s “Comoediae” is this scene in act XII. The artist has obviously mixed both ocurrences of the armed men group in both the full-page initial woodcut and the page-wide inner woodcut of “Eunuchus”. Pármeno looks like Dorax in the page-wide woodcut, Sempronio looks like Dorax in the full-page woodcut and Calisto looks like Traso in the two of them. Only their relative positions are changed, probably because the third man in the armed men group of the Strasbourg edition is not to be seen clearly enough.

Something very interesting about this analysis is that not only every character of the Burgos Comedia has a suitable model in Grüninger’s edition of Terence’s Comoediae, but that the distribution between models that are factotum figures and models that appear in the full-page illustrations that open each piece (and the exceptional page-wide scene of Eunuchus) is almost even. This is important because we identify Grüninger’s Terence with factotum figures and we forget that it includes eight full-page illustrations, two representing a theatre and six preceeding each comedy. These portray the characters in the correspoding urban or rural settings of the piece, introduce them to the reader, and show explicitly how they are related with lines that connect them. However, what interests me most is that their composition as whole scenes approaches them to the page-wide scenes of the Burgos Comedia. Moreover, there is one occurrence of a page-wide illustration that is conceived as an unitary scene as well, like the page-wide illustrations of the Burgos Comedia themselves. As a result, it is evident that the influence of Grüninger’s edition is not limited to its factotum figures, but it goes well beyond that, includes its full-page and page-wide scenes, and could justify to a certain extent why the Burgos Comedia does not use factotum figures itself: both full-page/page-wide scenes and page-wide scenes composed with factotum figures where suitable for illustrating Terence and Terence-like works. Not for nothing, Konrad Dinckmut’s 1486 edition of a German version of Eunuchus exclusively resorts to full-page scenes while the 15c. Terence manuscripts only depict scenes as well. Therefore, we should stop equalling Terence with factotum figures and start considering the greater freedom printers had when printing his Comoediae and drama in general.

Some reflections on the illustrated editions of the German translations of Celestina

In my last post, I described how serendipity led to an important discovery with regard to my reseach on the illustrations of the editions of the Italian translation of Celestina. More than a discovery, it was a confirmation of the dramatic status of Celestina in Italy, since the models for the illustrations of the Venice, Cesare Arrivabene, 1519 edition can be traced back to a particular Italian way of illustrating the works of Plautus and Terence in the 16th century. More concretely, there are reasons to believe that the model of Arrivabene’s edition was the Venice, Marchiò Sessa and Pietro Ravanis, 1518 edition of Plautus’ Comoediae in Latin.

A few days after I live-tweeted the whole process of establishing these relationships (follow me for more random thoughts on Celestina and some non-celestinqesque academic and –sometimes– non-academic stuff), serendipity did it again. This time, a colleague of mine asked me if I was familiar with a certain woodcut that looked German. It reminded me of the designs of Jost Amman’s Kunstbüchlin (Johann Feyerabend , Frankfurt am Main, 1599), but it was not among the many woodcuts there, so that I checked some books on jousting and tournaments, without results. Or, at least, without an answer for my colleague because, from the perspective of my research, it was far from being an unfruitful day.

Suddenly, among the “similar books” suggestions in one of the digital libraries I was checking, a title page caught my attention: the Frankfurt am Main, Hermann Schülfferich, 1553 edition of Die schöne Magelona. There it was, the same woodblock used by Heinrich Steiner for his 1534 edition of Christof Wirsung’s second translation of Celestina into German.

Einn recht liepliches büchlin… (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1534)
Die schoen Magelona (Frankfurt am Main, Hermann Schülfferich, 1553)

Not only that; this edition of Die schöne Magelona reuses the whole woodcuts set, including illustrations that are very tightly bound to the original text of Celestina, like, for example, Calisto’s death or the conversation of the parents of Melibea while she herself and her maid Lucrecia listen through the door:

Die schoen Magelona (Frankfurt am Main, Hermann Schülfferich, 1553 ), ff. A3v and A4r.
Die schoen Magelona (Frankfurt am Main, Hermann Schülfferich, 1553 ), ff. G3v and L2r.

But Schülfferichen was not the first person to associate this set of woodblocks to Die schöne Magelona. In 1535 Heinrich Steiner himself printed the first edition of the text, in which he used just one of the Celestina woodcuts.

Die schoen Magelona (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1535 )
Die schoen Magelona (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1535 ), fol. B3v.

In fact, this edition is characterised by a mix of illustrations of great artistic and technical quality, most of them attributable to Hans Weiditz, the artist behind the woodcuts of the German translation of Celestina, and traceable back to the printing press of Max Wirsung and Sigismund Grimm, and less artistic, more functional woodcuts.

Yes, we are in the same book and we are not ashamed of it – Die schoen Magelona (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1535 ), ff. A4r and J4v.

What is really interesting about Steiner and Schülfferich reusing these woodcuts for their editions of Die schöne Magelona is not what it tells us about how woodblocks went from one printer to the other (which is interesting by itself), but about how German people might have equaled Celestina to the literary genre of romance instead of equaling it to the Roman comedies of Terence and Plautus. Not for nothing, Die schöne Magelona is Veit Warbeck’s translation into German of the French prose romance Pierre de Provence et la belle Maguelonne (ca. 1453). Therefore, it is possible that these two printers saw some kind of similarity between Celestina and Die schöne Magelona, so that they felt that the woodcuts of the former would fit the latter as well. Both tell a love story, after all (however, they could not be more different).

That German printers or, at lest, Heinrich Steiner perceived Celestina rather as prosa than as drama can be confirmed through his use of the full-page woodblock of the Celestina series for his edition of Etliche Historien unnd fabulen gantz lustig zu lesen (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1541). This text, as its title indicates, is a collection of short narrative stories, among which we find some tales of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, for example, and other stories in which love is one of the driving forces, but it is not limited to it. Therefore, love seems not to be the reason behind Steiner’s choice, but that a story (with a certain amount of action) is being told in prose.

Etliche Historien unnd fabulen gantz lustig zu lesen (Augsburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1541), fol. A2v.

Furthermore, thanks to Fernando Carmona’s answer to one of my tweets on the topic (yes, I did live-tweet this one as well), I checked page 67 of his thesis La recepción de “La Celestina” en Alemania en el siglo XVI (2007) and, following this, I decided to look for pre-1534 illustrated editions of the prosa romances printed by Steiner.

Thereby, I saw with my own eyes that there is a tradition of illustrating prosa stories with more or less detailed depictions of scenes of the text in 16th century Germany, and particularly in Augsburg. This is evident in the editions of the Fortunatus, as well as in the editions of the Melusina (and, for sure, in many more).

Fortunatus, eyne hystorye (Augsburg, Johannes Heybler, 1509), fol. A3v.
Das abenteüerlich Buch beweyset vns von eyner frauwen genant. Melusina (Augsburg, Johann Schönsperger., ca. 1488), fol. 5v.
Die Historie oder Geschichte von der edlen und schönen Melusina (Augburg, Heinrich Steiner, 1538), fol. B1v.

As a result, while in 1519 the Italian printer Cesare Arrivabene was printing the first illustrated edition of the Italian translation of Celestina with the editions of Plautus and Terence in mind, I am very certain that Max Wirsung and Sigismund Grimm were commissioning Hans Weiditz illustrations in the tradition of the Fortunatus and the Melusina, that is, scenes that support the story told in the text. That Steiner, afterwards, specialised in using illustrations with no direct relation to the text is irrelevant. What is important here is that Celestina was not treated like a piece by Plautus or Terence, but as a story told in prose.

Would this explain why the title page of the Zaragoza, Jorge Coci, 1507 edition of the Tragicomedia reuses the very same woodcut that was used for the Zaragoza, Pablo Hurus, 1493 edition of Cárcel de amor, a well-know prose romance, and avoids the Terentian model of the Burgos Comedia? Not for nothing, both Hurus and Coci were German, and they were from Konstanz, a city in the South of Germany, like Augsburg. But this is something that still needs some research.

Some reflections on the illustrated editions of the Italian translation of Celestina

Some weeks ago, after deciding that the banner image of PATRIMONiT looked similar to the woodcuts of the Venice, Cesare Arrivabene, 1519 edition of the Italian translation of Celestina, I entered a frenzy and decided to look for woodcuts that could be attributed to the same artist in sixteenth-century Italian non-Celestina editions. This proved to be a bad take, since the woodcuts of the Venice 1519 edition belong to the kind of scenes that were mass-produced, without particular traits. The artist could have been anyone. The only characteristic that kept catching my attention was that women used to wear a gown with a square cut neckline and the very same hairstyle.

Look at both young women and tell me they do not look similar: Title pages of Celestina. Tragicomedia de Calisto e Melibea (Venice, Cesare Arrivabene, 1519) and Stramboti composti novamente da diversi auctori che sono in preposito a ciaschuno che e ferito damore (Venice, s.i., ca. 1525).

Checking the hairstyles and necklines of some hundreds of woodcuts led me to a particularly interesting one: the Venice, Marchiò Sessa and Pietro Ravanis, 1518 edition of Plautus’ Comoediae in Latin. But I lost my interest in the female character to the left very quickly. The archs in the background became much more relevant. The archs in the background are characteristic of the inner illustrations of Arrivabene’s edition of the Italian translation of Celestina.

Fol. CXXXVv, Comoediae (Venice, Marchiò Sessa and Pietro Ravanis, 1518) and fol. XXXII, Tragicomedia de Calisto e Melibea (Venice, Cesare Arribavene, 1519). For this last woodcut, I recommend checking a former post on how this edition exists in two states, one with this woodcut and one without it.

Even more interesting was that the archs were not exclusive of the above woodcut, but a common feature to most woodcuts of the Venice, Marchiò Sessa and Pietro Ravanis, 1518 edition of Plautus’ Comoediae in Latin.

Look at all these archs in the background!

Provided that Sessa’s edition precedes Arrivabene’s edition by one year, could it have been a model for the woodcuts? At first glance, this seemed a quite logical conclusion. Not for nothing, Marchiò Sessa printed the Italian translation of Celestina in 1531, with Arrevabene’s woodblocks. There could have been some kind of relationship before that. However, I was to discover that Terence’s Comoediae in Latin were also printed with a very similar set of illustrations. In it, archs are replaced by curtains and columns, but the effect and the composition are quite similar.

Comoediae (Milano, Augustinum de Vicomercat, 1521). But the curtain thing goes back to the Venice, Lazarum Soardum, 1504 edition.

Although I still believe that there is a strong point in favour of Sessa’s influence over Arrivabene’s woodcuts, what I find more interesting is that the Italian translation of Celestina is being illustrated according to a characteristically Italian way of illustrating Terence’s and Plautus’ Comoediae. From this point of view, Celestina is being equaled to Roman comedy.

This is not something new to Celestina. I do not need to remember how Griffin found a model for the woodcuts of the Burgos Comedia in the German illustrated editions of Terence. But it is interesting from the point of view of how Italian printers moved from the factotum figures model of Terence’s German editions to something very much of their own. Not that the factotum figures were unknown in Italy. In fact, they were used in the Venice, Lazarum Soardum, 1511 edition of Plautus’ Comoediae.

Comoediae (Venice, Lazarum Soardum, 1511)

This might explain why the printers of the Italian translation of Celestina had no trouble moving to the Spanish series of factotum figures and woodcuts in 1541.

In any case, what interests me most is that serendipity plays a big role in research. Were it not for a banner in an internet site, I could have missed these relationships completely. By mere chance, now I do have a great point of departure for further investigations.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search