Skip to main content

Capital letter C, with cupid and helmet

CAT 68 Magnini Capital letter C (with cupid and helmet) BA 35.jpg

CAT 67. F. Magnini. Capital letter C, with cupid and helmet. Ornamental initial letter cut from essay “Les Fresques de Tiepolo” in L’Art 21 (1879): 13. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

This letter C is the same size as Melville’s Biblical letters in the same envelope but here the figure of cupid, rather than some Old Testament personage, is straddling the curve of the letter and attending to the helmet directly above its pointed tip. Melville’s copy of this engraving does not identify the artist or engraver, but the design is attributed to F. Magnini when used as an ornamental initial letter in several essays in the French journal L’Art in 1879 and 1880. The fragment of an engraving on the verso of Melville’s cut-out letter can be identified as the one used on page 13 of the essay on “Les Fresques de Tiepolo” in the 1789 volume because the lower right corner of an engraving by C. E. Wilson after Tiepolo on page 14 of that volume is visible on the back of Melville’s cut-out. The capital letter C begins the sentence “C’est un veritable enchanteur que Tiepolo” from a book published by Antonio Maria Zanetti in Venice in 1771. Mangnini was active in Venice in the 1760s.

Although seemingly far from Melville’s two-inch square Old Testament capital letters deriving from the 1728 Taferelen, the style of Magnini’s cupid is not so different from the cupids and other amorous creatures that Picart introduced into several of the headpieces that he printed directly above the capital letters of the Taferelen. These more decorative developments in Picart’s style showed him increasingly attuned to the evolving style of the French rococo. For engravings from L’Art in Melville’s collection, see CAT 114-15, 159, 164, 177-181