Jacopo dei Barbari on Modern Love, circa 1500
THE DAILY PIC: At the New York Public Library, the Venetian artist Jacopo dei Barbari presents Priapus as Renaissance Viagra.
THE DAILY PIC (#1807): The Old Master prints in the show called “Love in Venice,” now at the New York Public Library, had me feeling jealous. That’s because Venice is my favorite spot on the planet but I didn’t get to take my usual trip there this year for the Venice Biennale. Instead, I had to settle for the Venetian images at the NYPL and, enviously, for the vicarious pleasure of hearing my nephew tell me about the glorious honeymoon he had just spent there.
Since nephew and bride are actually celebrating their wedding tomorrow (such is modern life, where honeymoons come before weddings) and a baby is on its way (such is modern life, where babies come before honeymoons and weddings) my interest was instantly piqued by this image of Roman women sacrificing to the fertility god Priapus, printed in around 1500. It’s by the wonderful, underknown Venetian artist Jacopo dei Barbari, who can claim the honor of having made one of the first independent still-lifes in European art and also one of the first bird’s-eye city views—without the benefit of any machine that could get him up to a bird’s height. (He had to calculate and guesstimate what Venice would look like from above…)
Another sign of Jacopo’s fully modern spirit: The way, in today’s Pic, he melds Christian iconography—the print could almost pass for a Circumcision of Christ or a Visitation—with a subject that is actually from antiquity. Not one or the other, but both/and.
For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.
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