Agostino dei Musi, known as Veneziano (Venice ca. 1490 – after 1536 Rome)
The Procession of Silenus, after Raphael or Giulio Romano), ca. 1520-25
7 7/16 x 10 3/16 inches
189 x 259 mm
The engraver and draftsman Agostino Veneziano arrived in Rome by 1516. There he began to produce numerous prints after the drawings of Raphael and his students, possibly even working directly in the workshop of Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1480–ca. 1534), the most influential translator of the master’s work into engraving. Veneziano abandoned Rome for Venice at the time of the Sack of Rome in 1527, not returning until 1531. During this period, he also visited Florence and Mantua where he engraved prints after Giulio Romano (ca. 1499–1546), Raphael’s foremost disciple.
The composition, based broadly on a scene described in the sixth Eclogue of the Mantuan poet Virgil (6:13–28), shows the cheerfully drunken Silenus (the tutor of Bacchus, known as much for his wisdom as for his love of drink) riding an ass on which he is supported by two fauns. He is preceded by a dancing bacchante playing cymbals, another carrying a basket of grapes on her head, and a hairy satyr who assists an amorino in encouraging a goat to jump through a hoop. Most of these figures, in addition to the leopard seen at right, appear to be freely based on the relief of an early Roman sarcophagus front (now at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, England) which, in the sixteenth century, was kept in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. This or a similar sarcophagus frieze is thought to have provided the source for a drawing by Raphael or possibly Giulio Romano (both since lost) on which the engraving is based. ❖