Francesco Salviati

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Francesco Salviati
(Florence 1510–1563 Rome)

Emblematic Design

Illegible inscription in the banderole, in pen and brown ink, by the artist

Pen and brown ink, brown wash
7 1/2 x 7 3/8 inches (191 x 187 mm)

Gift of Janos Scholz, 1979

Item description: 

This drawing is a design by Salviati for a device consisting of a moth approaching a flame emanating from a fantastic animal. The lamp consists of a double-headed horse and a base in the shape of a human foot. Though lacking a decipherable motto, the impresa (emblem) seems to convey a call to prudence: the moth is attracted by the light of the lamp but must be careful so as not to be burned.

With the rediscovery of classical epigrams, the use of emblems became increasingly popular in sixteenth-century art. They usually consisted of a pictorial image imbued with symbolic meaning, a brief motto, and a longer, explanatory text.