Attributed to Prospero Fontana

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Attributed to Prospero Fontana
(Bologna 1512–1597 Bologna)

Socrates Inspired by a Genius

Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over traces of black chalk; illusionistic frame in pen and brown ink, by the artist
4 3/4 x 3 5/8 inches (121 x 91 mm)

Gift of Professor Julius S. Held in honor of Felice Stampfle, 1992

Item description: 

Fontana designed the great majority of the engravings that illustrate Achille Bocchi's Symbolicarum Quaestionum . . . libri quinque (Five Books of Symbolic Questions), which, like Salviati's drawing Emblematic Design, reflect the Renaissance fashion for personal devices.

The present drawing is preparatory to the third emblem, dedicated to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, who is invoked with the words, "You who are the greatest of the Farnese." Unusually, the philosopher Socrates is represented in the act of drawing because, according to the accompanying motto, "through images the most hidden meanings are revealed."