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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (Published)

  • Date:

    second quarter 16th century (Published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Modena, Nicoletto da (Engraver)
    Antonio Salamanca, born 1478 - died 1562 (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraving on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case EO, shelf 123

This engraving by Nicoletto da Modena shows a dense grotesque design. Two of the figures in the print are copied from Nero’s Golden House, the wildly extravagant palace the emperor built for himself after the great fire of Rome. Nicoletto scratched his name there in 1507. However, his dense and imaginative style is closer to different types of grotesque designed by the Italian painter Bernardo Pinturicchio (active in the late 15th century), rather than the Roman original. Nicoletto’s grotesque prints were among the first to be published. The theme of the grotesque – referring to designs with human and animal forms and foliage – was a popular one around this period.

Physical description

Plate 1. Ornamental panel with bound slaves and a birdcage.

Place of Origin

Italy (Published)


second quarter 16th century (Published)


Modena, Nicoletto da (Engraver)
Antonio Salamanca, born 1478 - died 1562 (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Engraving on paper

Marks and inscriptions

Signed in monogram twice NO with a vase.
Lettered An. sa. exc.
A winged figure writes SPQR.D.I.I on a tablet on the left. On the right a similar figure writes .D.D. and A.N.


Height: 26 cm Cut to, Width: 13.8 cm Cut to

Object history note

From Miller (1999), p. 76:
A date of 1507 has been suggested for the first publication of these prints (Washington, p.478), placing them among the earliest prints of their type produced in Italy. The engraver is known to have seen Nero's Domus Aurea in Rome in that year, as an inscription there reads Nicholeto da Modena/Ferrara 1507 (Washington, p.466). It has been suggested (Berliner, 1925-26, p.15 and Washington, p.478) that a figure in a work by Urs Graf, datable to 1512, is derived from one of the plates in the set (B. XIII, 54, not in the V&A), but this apparent relationship has been doubted (Zucker, 1984, p. 228). For a discussion of these images, see Brown, 70A and B, and Washington. The plate order follows Bartsch. Hind's third and fourth state of these prints involves the reworking of the plate as well as the addition of Salamanca's name.

Descriptive line

Grotesque ornament print, engraved by Nicoletto da Modena, Italy, second quarter of the 16th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Bartsch, A., Le Peintre-Graveur, 21 vols, Vienna, 1803-21, vol. XIII, 56,57.
Guilmard, D., Les Maîtres Ornemanistes, Paris, 1880-188, p.282, no. 7.
Jessen, P., Meister des Ornamentstiches, eine Auswahl aus vier Jahrhunderten, vol. 1, Gotik und Renaissance, Berlin, 1924, 32-3.
Hind, A.M., Early Italian Engraving, 7 vols, London, 1938-48, V, no. 105-III and 106-III.
Berliner, R. and Egger, G., Ornamentale Vorlageblätter des 15. bis 19. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols, Munich, 1981, 222-3.
Washington: Early Italian Engravings from the National Gallery of Art, Exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington (J.A. Levenson, K. Oberhuber, J.L. Sheehan), 1973, 174-5.
Ornament and Architecture: Renaissance Drawings, Prints and Books, Exhibition Catalogue, Brown University, Bell Gallery, List Art Center, Providence, Rhode Island, 1980, 70a &b.
Jean-Richard, P., Ornemanistes du Xve au XVIIe siècles gravures et dessins : XIVe exposition de la Collection Edmond de Rothschild, Exhibition catalogue, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1987, 142-3.
González de Zárate, J.M., Real Colección de Estampas de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 10 vols, Vitoria-Gastiez, 1992-5, vol. VIII, 49. (3212), VIII.1.2-3.(3351-2).
Miller, E., 16th-century Italian ornament prints in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1999, p. 76 (cat. 22a &b).

Production Note

First published before 1522





Subjects depicted

Slaves; Tablets; Grotesques


Ornament prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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