VASARI records the date of the birth of Francia as 1450, and it is probable that he is right in this assertion. Calvi, who wrote a short life of the artist in 1812, to which reference will be constantly made in these pages, ascertained that the master matriculated in the Gold-smiths’ Guild in 1482, on September 10, and in the following year, 1483, was appointed Master of the Guild. He also found that, by the statutes of the Guild, no one could be Master who had not attained the age of thirty years, and we may therefore conclude that the birth of the artist took place from about 1448 to 1454.
His parents Vasari describes as artisans, but this is hardly the right manner in which to speak of them. The family was an old one, and well known in Bologna, where its members had held office for several generations in the highest positions in the government of the place, and had possessed land in the commune of Zola Predosa from the early part of the fourteenth century, even, it is said, as far back as 1308. At the time of Francia’s birth the family was not in good circumstances, and the land appears to have been temporarily charged, but the name of his father, Marco di Giacomo Raibolini, was still held in high repute, and appears in the civic records in various important offices.
Francesco’s father had matriculated in the art of a wood-carver, but the son desired to work in metals, and was accordingly bound to a clever goldsmith named Duc, who was generally called Francia, and from his master’s name the pupil took his own cognomen, by which he is generally styled. It is evident, from the description that Vasari gives of the young Raibolini, that he was a very charming fellow. He was bright and cheerful, full of good-humour, and excellent in conversation, while his courtesy and obliging disposition won him many friends. As a goldsmith, he seems to have been very popular, and his work was in constant demand.* We are told from documents that, in 1488, he sent to Leonora, Duchess of Ferrara, an exquisite chain of gold hearts linked together, which was probably a bridal present for Elizabeth Gonzaga, sister of Isabella d’Este’s betrothed husband, who had visited Ferrara that spring on her way to Urbino. From this it is evident that the fame of Raibolini had extended beyond the region of Bologna ; and this is not an isolated case, as other documents speak of the works of this artist in gold, which were known at Mantua and at Parma, and he is even mentioned in a contemporary letter of 1486, written in Florence, as ” Raibolini, the famous goldsmith of Bologna, who will be able to give you the chain that you want.” The fine shield (Plate I.) which was done for the Bentivoglio family, and which is now preserved at the Casa Rodrigrez in Bologna, is an example of another kind of metal-work that was success-fully adopted by the artist. It is of decorated cuir bouilli, bearing upon its surface a bold, spirited representation of a knight in full armour vanquishing a dragon, which he is at the moment transfixing with a long lance. The knight may be St. Michael or St. George, or merely a familiar representation of the champion of the family at the time. He bears in his hand the shield of Bentivoglio, and is not depicted as a heavenly warrior, but simply as a courageous knight. His horse is finely drawn and full of life, and the dragon, a loathsome beast, is showing fight well, and has torn up the ground around him in a valiant attempt to escape from his foe. Around the shield is a broad band of metal-work, in which are wrought two inscriptions, one metal, a white one, probably silver, being inlaid upon the other, which appears to be a rich yellow bronze. The shield is curved to fit the body, and the inscriptions, according to the habit of the day, are taken from Scripture, and allude in a fanciful manner first to the approach of the family champion, and to his ability to elude his foes ; and, secondly, to his desire to fight the fight alone, and his wish to bear the entire burden of the struggle, and for his attendants and relations to be allowed to go free.
” But He passing through the midst of them went His way” (St. Luke iv. 30).
” If therefore you seek Me, let these go their way” (St. John xviii. 8).
Vasari states that the work which delighted Francia above all other occupations was the cutting of dies for medals, and that in this he was considered excellent, and his works most admirable. He specially speaks of the medals of Giovanni Bentivoglio, and of those of Pope Julius II., which were, he says, so fine that the heads seem to be alive on them. It has been ascertained that the artist was Director of the Zecca, or Mint, at Bologna, and on November 19, 15o8, was given the entire charge of the provision of money for the city.
Vasari states that the whole of the dies for the coins used at the time when the Bentivogli governed in Bologna were prepared by Raibolini, and also the money struck for Pope Julius II. after their departure, and during the whole of that Pontiff’s life, and he instances the money coined by the Pope on his entrance to the city bearing his head on one side, and on the other the words BONONIA . PER . JVLIVM . A . TYRANNO . LIBERATA, with the figure of St. Peter.* Vasari further records that so skilful was our artist considered to be in this respect that he continued to make dies for the coinage down to the time of Leo X., and that his medallions were so highly valued that they are in great demand and not easily to be obtained.
It is probable that the entire statement must be received with caution, and that Vasari, in his usual inaccurate manner, was confusing coins with medals, as the coinage done for Leo X. does not show any signs of being the work of Raibolini, nor even of being influenced by the traditions of the Bologna Mint.
There are, however, two zecchini of gold that were struck in Bologna for Bentivoglio and were in all probability the work of the artist, as the same lettering and the same style of drawing are to be seen upon them as on the medals. They read IOANNES . BENTIVOLVS . II . BONONIENSIS . on the obverse, with the head of the Governor, and on the reverse the arms of the Bentivogli, with the inscription IMPERA . MVNVS . MAXIMILIANI . (Plate II., Figs. i and 2). The smaller gold coin is almost identical, save that the final two letters of the word BONONIENSIS and the word IMPERA are omitted, and the coat of arms does not possess the crest (Plate IL, Figs. 3 and 4). The money named by Vasari (zecchino, grosso, and half grosso) is of greater interest, as, in addition to the inscription recording the liberation of the city from the tyranny of the Bentivogli by the Supreme Pontiff and his assumption again of the ruling power, these coins have upon them a lovely design of interlaced branches of a rose-tree, forming part of the Della Rovere arms an ornament that the artist evidently loved, as it is to be found also upon his paintings, and, as it appears upon the paintings (as far as I am aware) of no other man at that period, it is of great service in identifying the works of this painter-goldsmith who so lovingly used it as his mark, out of respect, perhaps, to his great patron.l’
It is well just to refer to the curious fact that the portraits of the Pope on the coins, and especially on the medals, are, as pointed out by Mr. Keary, “curiously unlike those by Raphael in the Stanze of the Vatican and in the Pitti Palace, and that the difference does not lie only in the presence of a beard in the later portraits by Raphael.” It is quite evident to an observer that between the date of the medals (1505-6) and that of the portraits (1511-13) there had been a great change in the aspect of the Pontiffa change from the appearance of a warlike general to that of a peaceful patron of the fine arts, and a determined ruler of the Holy See.
The most notable medals done by Francia for Giovanni Bentivoglio II., who was Governor of the city from 1443 to 1509, bear the following inscriptions. The first reads IOANNES . BENTIVOLVS . II . BONONIENSIS, with a head of the Governor wearing a flat cap or biretta on one side, and on the other the inscription MAXIMILIANI . IMPERATORIS . MVNVS . MCCCCLXXXXIIII . (1494). The words IOANNES . SECVNDVS . BENTIVOLVS, and on the other the arms of the family, with the words PRINCEPS . HANNIBALIS . FI . R . P . BONON. The larger one is in bronze, and is cast (Plate III., Figs. 1 and 2) ; the smaller one in silver, and is struck (Plate IV., Figs. 1 and 2).
Of Pope Julius II. there are six medals attributed to the hand of Raibolini, as he must for the present be called. Two were struck only in gold, one in gold and in silver, one in silver and in bronze, and one in bronze only, and this latter one was done for the Mint in Rome, where the original die is still preserved, whilst the others were done for the Mint at Bologna. The silver one reads IVLIVS . SECVNDVS . LIGVR . P . M . on one side, with an effigy of the Pontiff wearing a biretta and cope, and on the other a representation of St. Paul, on the road to Damascus, being suddenly struck with blindness, and a further inscription on what is known to medallists as the exergue of the medal : CONTRA . STIMVLVM . NE . CALCITRES. The medal which is found both in silver and in gold is the same size as this one, and almost exactly like it, save that it has the figure II. on the obverse instead of the word SECVNDVS (Plate V., Figs. 3 and 4).
There are two found in gold only, and of these one exactly resembles, on its obverse, the one last named ; but, instead of the scene from the life of St. Paul, it bears, on the reverse, a representation of the sanctuary of the holy house of Loreto, which the Pontiff visited in 1507, and the great privileges of which he augmented by a Bull dated October 21, 1507. The inscription on this reverse is TEMPLVM . VIRG . LAVRETI . MDVIIII. The other of the gold medals is larger, and has upon the reverse a representation of a shepherd, seated upon the ground, attending to his flock, who are grazing around him, and the one word TVTELA ; while on the obverse it resembles the last noted one, bearing the words IVLIVS . II . LIGVR . P . M.
The bronze one done for the Papal Zecca at Rome is a particularly fine piece of die-sinking, full of detail, exquisitely sharp, and most gracefully drawn. The inscription on the obverse is IVLIVS . LIGVR . PAPA sECVNDVS, and the Pope is bare-headed and wearing a richly-ornamented cope. On the reverse is a standing figure of a woman crowned with ears of corn, and bearing in her hand a full cornucopia, from which with her other hand she is withdrawing and holding out a sheaf of grain. The inscription is ANNONA . PVBLICA, and the allusion is most evidently to the care taken by the Sovereign Pontiff of his people in providing them with food during the famine of 1505 (Plate V., Figs. 5 and 6). Once more was Raibolini’s work seen in Rome in the same direction of medallic art, for many years after he had executed this fine medal for Julius II. he was summoned by Clement VII. to execute a similar medal for him in the same size, and, as the original die, still in existence in the Papal Mint, will show, having upon it all the same marks of fine workmanship and exquisite detail. This medal has upon the reverse an effigy of the Pope, bare-headed, wearing a rich cope, upon the orphreys of which are two figures of female saints, and the morse of which bears a representation of the Saviour.
On the obverse is an interesting scene : Joseph is seated on a throne ornamented with the Medici arms, and around him in various attitudes are his eleven brethren.
The inscription is EGO . SVM . IOSEPH . FRATER . VESTER, and the allusion is to the affection that the Pontiff continued to bear towards the Florentine people, notwithstanding their attitude towards him. This medal has been at times attributed to Bonanni, Venuti, and even to Benvenuto Cellini ; but the documents have now been found that make its attribution to Raibolini a matter of clear evidence. The grouping of the brothers is admirable, and every face within the narrow limits of the medal is treated with distinction, and with infinite care for expression (Plate V., Figs. i and 2).
There remain for consideration two other medals which it is known Raibolini executed, and which are of far grander proportion than those that have yet been mentioned. One was done for the Legate of the city of Bologna, Francesco Alidosi, who was Cardinal in 1505, and Legate in 1508, and who is represented upon this superb medal in his Cardinal’s biretta and mozette.
The inscription reads as follows : FR . ALIDOXIVS . CAR . PAPIEN . BON . ROMANDIOLAE . Q . C . LEGAT . On the reverse is represented Jupiter holding his fulmen in his hand, and standing in a chariot which is drawn by two eagles. Below, in the exergue of the medal, are the signs of Sagittarius and the Fishes. The inscription on this side reads : HIS . AVIBVS . CVRRVQ . CITO. DVCERIS. AD . ASTRA (Plate III., Figs. 3 and 4). The other medal represents Bernardo Rossi, Count of Berceto, who was Governor of Bologna in 1519, and who, like the Cardinal, is depicted in biretta and mozette. The legend reads : BER . RV . CO . B . EPS . TAR. LE . BO . VIC . GV . ET . PRAE. On the reverse is a woman standing in a chariot, bearing a branch in her hand, and being drawn by an eagle and a dragon coupled together, the inscription being OB. IRTVTES . IN . FLAMINIAM . RESTITVTAS (Plate IV., Figs. 3 and 4). Both these medals are large, 65 millimetres across, and are powerfully drawn and in very high relief. The faces are clear cut, and very full of character, and the lettering is big and clear, and they have all the special marks of Raibolini’s lettering and classic style of draughtsmanship.
Fine as are these medals, it was not as a medallist that Raibolini did his best work in these goldsmith days, but as a worker in niello. This work, which must not be confused with enamel, was a method of producing delicate and minute decoration upon a polished metal surface by incised lines, filled in with a black metallic amalgam, the black substance differing from true enamel in being metallic and not vitreous. In the sixteenth century it was in great vogue, and is often mentioned by Vasari, notably in what he has to say as to Cellini and Maso Finiguerra.
According to Theophilus, a monk who wrote in the twelfth or thirteenth centuries (” Div. Art. Sch. Hendrie,” edit. 1847), the process was as follows : The design was cut with a sharp tool on the metal. An alloy was formed of two parts silver, one-third copper, and one-sixth lead. To this mixture, while fluid in the crucible, powdered sulphur in excess was added, and the brittle amalgam, when cold, was finely pounded and sealed up in large quills for use. A solution of borax to act as a flux was brushed over the metal plate and thoroughly worked into its incised lines. The powdered amalgam was then shaken on to the plate so as to completely cover the engraved design. The plate was then carefully heated over a charcoal fire, fresh amalgam being added, as the powder fused, upon any defective places. When the powder had become thoroughly liquid so as to fill up all the lines, the plate was allowed to cool, and the whole surface was scraped so as to remove the superfluous niello, leaving only what had sunk into and filled up the engraved pattern. Last of all the nielloed plate was very highly polished till it presented the appearance of a smooth metal surface enriched with a delicate design in fine gray-black lines. The contrast was very vivid between the whiteness of the silver and the darkness of the niello, and as the slightest scratch upon the metal received the niello and became a distinct black line, ornament of the most minute and refined description could easily be produced. There is much of this work to be seen in Italy, especially in vessels and ornaments intended for ecclesiastical use, and Raibolini became well known for the beauty of the nielli that he produced. The art had been known since the days of the Romans, but was brought to perfection in the sixteenth century, and many great artists, as Brunelleschi, Pollajuolo, Cellini, and Caradosso, as well as Raibolini, practised it with success.
Raibolini is known to have executed at great cost a famous silver pax as a wedding-gift on the occasion of the marriage of Giovanni Sforza and Lucrezia Borgia, but that has disappeared. There are works attributed to him in the Bargello, notably a fine chalice, a paten, and a pax ; but at Bologna are still preserved two pieces of niello that are undoubtedly the work of the master. They are very different one from the other. The earlier one (Plate VI.) is the smaller, and, being adorned with the arms, in enamel, of the Sforza and Bentivoglio families, was probably intended as a wedding-gift from Giovanni Bentivoglio to his bride, Ginevra Sforza. It represents the Crucifixion, and at the foot of the cross are four figures, probably the Blessed Virgin, St. John the Divine, St. Jerome, kneeling, and St. Francis. In the rear is a mountainous landscape with Jerusalem amidst the rocks, and above are two angels in flight. The grouping is essentially Bolognese, and the faces of the Christ and the saints, minute although they are, will be seen repeated in the paintings of the master later on. The lines of the niello are extremely fine and delicate, and the tiny composition is full of feeling. It is enshrined in an arch, which is decorated with green foliage, and bears at its spandrils two shields, having upon them the arms already named worked in their heraldic colours. On either side of this arch are richly decorated pilasters of wrought silver, bearing upon them a pediment having the words engraved upon it MEMORARE . NOVISSIA . TVA . ET . IN . ETÉNV . NÔ . PECCABIS. Above this is engraved in the silver a representation of Christ spreading forth His wounded hands, and on either side of Him is an adoring angel. The letters M. Z. are engraved by the shield of arms. The other pax (3A é X 2A) must be attributed to a later date, more about the time of 1500, and is a finer, bolder work, very individual in its characteristics, and is set in a frame that is of stronger, grander work than is the more minute and niggling detail of the smaller one. The square faces, short stature and stiff drawing of the smaller pax bespeak the earlier work of Raibolini, and recall his pictures of 1488 and 1490, but in this pax depicting the Resurrection there is a very different handling. Like the other, it was probably intended for a wedding present, and bears in two shields upon its base the arms of the Felicini and Ringhieri families, denoting that it was given on the occasion of the marriage of Bartolommeo Felicini with Dorothea Ringhieri (Plate VII.). The Christ is a tall, dignified figure, stepping gloriously from the tomb, bearing in one hand a flag of victory, and having the other upraised in benediction. The encircling frame is an arch, rising from a square-ended base, and is adorned throughout its course with a bold foliage decoration of happy design enclosed within a lovely worked moulding of leaves. The decoration on the arch is in much higher relief than is any of the work on the smaller pax, and exhibits an ease and grace in its design that far exceed the beauty of the earlier work. In the figures of the four sleeping soldiers at the tomb can also be seen good, strong drawing, far better than any of the work on the earlier pax.
In the Museo Civico Cristiano at Brescia there is another fine pax, very similar to the ones at Bologna, which has been attributed by some persons to Francia, but which I cannot accept as his work.
The frame, which is an architectural one of finely wrought silver, bears the closest resemblance, both in design and in workmanship, to the two in Bologna, even to the fact that the mouldings and ornaments of leaves are similar, and the twin columns which support the lunette are almost exactly the same as those which Francia did.
It is quite possible that this frame may have been the work of our artist, but the niello which it contains is certainly not the work of his hand, and in its strenuous archaic forcefulness has a far closer resemblance to the productions of Signorelli, Pollajuolo; or some earlier artist, than to the work of Francia. The whole thing is very charming and delightfully wrought, but it is not to be connected with Francia.
The process of working in niello led in an indirect manner to the discovery of engraving on a plate, and the honour of malting this important discovery is usually given to one of the earlier Italian niellists, one Maso Finiguerra.
Whilst a niello was in progress the artist could not see the work so well as if the black material (nigellum) was already in the lines, and on the other hand he did not wish to insert the black substance prematurely, as when once it was set it could not easily be removed. He therefore took a sulphur cast of the niello in progress, and his method is thus described by Lanzi in his ” Storia Pittorica della Italia ” (Roscoe’s trans., vol. i., p. 100) : ” When he had cut the plate he next proceeded to take a print of it before he inlaid it with niello upon very fine earth, and from the cut being to the right hand, and hollow, the proof consequently came out on the left, showing the little earthen cast in relief. Upon this last he threw the liquid sulphur, from which he obtained a second proof, which, of course, appeared to the right, and took from the relief a hollow form. He then laid the ink (lamp-black mixed with oil) upon the sulphur in such a way as to fill up the hollows on the more indented cuts, intended to produce the shadow, and next, by degrees, he scraped away from the ground (of the sulphur) what was meant to produce the light. The final work was to polish it with oil in order to give the sulphur the bright appearance of silver.” With moistened paper he then obtained a proof of his work from the second sulphur cast, pressing it into the sulphur with his hand, and by that means printing on to the paper the design that was being worked upon the plate. It was, of course, needful to make the pressure very carefully, as the sulphur would easily break, and the impression therefore was but a slight and uneven one ; but very speedily this idea was expanded, and the niello plate itself was filled with the ink, and from it a far finer impression was taken by means of damped paper, and in this case a roller was used in order that every part of the paper should come into contact with the plate. Whether this method was the usual one adopted by niellists, or was first introduced by Maso Finiguerra, is not definitely known ; but it is believed that he was the first to use it, and there is in existence an impression taken in this way and reversed, as would naturally be the case, which it is clear is taken from the pax in the Bargello that is attributed to Maso Finiguerra, and is usually accepted as his work. It is possible that the method once discovered was used by other workers in niello than Maso during his period, but if that is so their works are not known, and there are no prints that can be attributed with any certainty to the goldsmith Baccio Baldini, whom Vasari mentions as the successor of Maso Finiguerra in this early engraving work. Twenty-five of the sulphur casts made by the niellists are still in existence, and it seems likely that such casts were made after a while as ornaments for decoration of altars, etc., and sold for such purposes, and that in this way the process adopted at first for the convenience of the worker became a source of further profit to him. In the same way the better plan adopted of making the impressions from the niello itself instead of from the sulphur casts was really the beginning of plate engraving; but it was regarded solely as a method of proving the plate, and it was not until a very much later period that it was recognised as an art in itself, and then carried on to the great and wonderful results of which plate engraving was capable.
From whom Raibolini learned the art is not known ; but inasmuch as an impression exists in the Albertina Museum at Vienna (Plate II., Fig. 5) which is evidently taken from the pax at Bologna, and proves by the reversed letters 1. N. R. 1 (RINI) above the cross that it was taken on paper from the actual niello with-out the intervention of a sulphur cast, it is clear that he had learned the art of making these impressions and practised it. Calvi attributes to Raibolini a very rare engraving of ” The Baptism of our Saviour ” (B.. XI V., 22), and Passavant unhesitatingly accepts this attribution. Bartsch had given this print to Marcantonio, numbering it in his list as twenty-two ; but no one had pointed out until Mr. Richard Fisher did so, in his note on the engravings of Marcantonio, written for the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1886, that this print is identical both in character and treatment with a painting by Raibolini that still exists at Hampton Court ; and there can now be added to this confirmation the still further evidence that is afforded by the painting of “The Baptism” at Dresden closely resembling the print, and in which the same figure of the Christ that appears in it and at Hampton Court can be seen. Duchesne gives to Raibolini four niello prints” The Nativity,” ” The Crucifixion,” ” The Resurrection,” and “A Woman attended by Three Men and a Satyr.” Of these, ” The Crucifixion ” and ” The Resurrection ” are from the Bologna paxes. Passavant adds one more” The Judgment of Paris ” (Bartsch, 339) but with this attribution I cannot at all agree, as the workmanship does not accord with that of any of the accepted works. Two early engravings are given by Fisher to the artistthat of “Samson and the Lion ” (D. i8) and ” SS. Catharine and Lucia ” (B. XIV., 121) ; and, in addition to these, there is in the British Museum an engraving from his own design of ” The Virgin,” with the Infant Saviour in her hands, seated enthroned in the centre, a saint standing on either side (P. V., 201, 2). There is also a print of ” Lucretia ” (B. XV., 458, 4)a work of great attractiveness and beauty, the upper part of which is in exquisite drawing, rivalling the well-known ” Lucretia ” of Marcantonio. A fine impression of this print is to be found in the Louvre. ” David and Goliath ” is given by Ottley to Raibolini, and I am disposed to attribute to him the ” St. Jerome ” (7 in his facsimiles), as it closely resembles the St. Jerome in his undoubted ” Crucifixion.” These are all the prints that can be attributed to Raibolini with any strong reason, but they do not exhaust the list of those which connoisseurs are disposed in their own collections to give to the famous worker. There are especially many prints that are signed ” I. F.,” in a monogram, which are catalogued by Bartsch under the joint names of Raibolini and his son Giacomo, and which might with good probability be given to the elder artist alone; but there is not sufficient evidence to warrant the ascription at present, and from internal evidence it is impossible to say as regards this group of prints that they were the work of two separate hands or that one shows any more than another who was the designer who suggested it or who engraved it.
The number of genuine niello prints in existence is exceedingly small, and this is not a matter of great surprise, as the proofs were only taken by the niello worker for his own information, without any idea of their value, and were in all probability cast aside after use, and only preserved as beautiful things by those persons who were interested in the artist or had to do with the pax or other Church ornament upon which he was at the time engaged. As soon as the demand arose for these prints, and attention had been directed to their importance as the precursors of the art of engraving upon metal, there came the day of the forger ; and in the second decade of the present century two ingenious VenetiansPirona and Zanetti-started making niello-work, and producing these coveted early prints for sale to the connoisseurs of Europe. The greatest care has therefore to be taken in the examination of these little treasures, and any decision based upon them is usually confined to the group of prints, of undoubtedly genuine antiquity, known, from their possessor in 1774, as the Durazzo prints, thirty-two in number, or to the few extra ones known to exist in the national collections of Europe.
Of niello prints, not one is proved to have been taken from the sulphur casts, but all are believed to have been printed direct from the niello. Although, as has been stated, some twenty-five of the sulphur casts still remain (nineteen belonging to the British Museum and six to Baron Edmond de Rothschild of Paris), yet not one print that it is quite certain was taken from them, bearing marks of the incomplete impression that it would naturally have, can be traced, and in all probability all of these earliest prints have long ago perished. The sulphurs would not have been so well preserved but that they were worked into the decoration of a small portable altar that belonged to a branch house of the convent of the Camaldoli in the mountains near to Florence, whence they were sold in 1818.
The engravings done by Raibolini bear no signature or date to aid us in our identification of them, and it is only by their characteristics that we are able to fix the name of their artist. The niello print, which is illustrated in this book (Plate II.), bears upon itself the proof of its origin, and others, from their association in design and resemblance in drawing with his pictures, have been recognised. The faces of those in the British Museum bear, as Mr. Fisher has well said, ” the expression and feeling of Raibolini’s drawing, the timidity of the lips and the inquiring nervousness of the eyes, which are such marked characteristics of his pencil, being conspicuous in them.” One only bears a mark, but that has no intelligible connection with the master, as it is the letters ” D. A. F.” under a curved line, and it is to be found only upon the late state of the print of ” The Madonna holding the Infant Saviour, attended by St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua,” in the British Museum (P. V., 201, 2). See p. 121.
It may be well, perhaps, at this place to refer briefly to the celebrated pupils who were trained by the artist, one of whom certainly in this special work went far beyond his master, and gained world-wide fame. Peregrini, whose signature as DE OPVS . PEREGRINI . CES., Or OPVS . PEREGRINO, Or Simply O.P.D.C. Or P. alone, is to be found on several niello prints, was probably one of Raibolini’s pupils ; but whether he came from Cesena or from Cento or Cesio is not known, although he is generally considered to have been a native of the little town of Cesena, which boasts of the possession of the Malatesta Library, the only perfect medieval chained library still preserved in Italy.
A far greater man was Marcantonio Raimondi, who in his early years was admitted into the master’s studio, and soon became his favourite pupil, and acquired the cognomen of ” de Franci.” He was born about 1488, and his earliest print was done when he was about nineteen years old, a lad in the workshop of his master. It is an illustration for the story of ” Pyramus and Thisbe,” dated 1505. Later on, with the good wishes of his master, he went to Venice, and there produced works, based upon the engravings of Dürer, which had just reached that city ; and in 1510 he went to Rome, and commenced that career as an engraver for Raphael that brought to him such fame. He was a most skilful draughtsman and ingenious engraver, and perhaps some of the very finest works that were ever drawn upon copper were his. In his hands the art that had commenced in so tentative and nervous a manner but a few short years beforemerely as a help to the niello workerbecame a great art, and capable in the hands of so skilful a man of the grandest and finest results. After the terrible sack of Rome in 1527, Marcantonio returned to his native city of Bologna, where he died a few years later.
This chapter, describing Raibolini as a worker in metal, has yet two other crafts to refer tothose of working in jewels and designing and casting type. Niccolo Serradenari, who wrote a short biography of the artist, specially refers to him as an artificer of jewels, and the papers preserved at Mantua mention a long chain set with ” engraved gems curiously mounted in gold so as to turn around,” made by Raibolini as a gift for the Duchess of Mantua. As a type-founder he also attained a considerable repute, and will always be remembered as the man who made for Aldus Manutius the first famous ” italic ” type.
In April, 1501, Aldus produced his ” Virgil,” an octavo work of 228 leaves, bearing the following imprint, ” Venetiis ex aedibus Aldi Romani mense aprili M.DI.” This was the first book printed by Aldus in his Italic type, and in the typographic world it caused a revolution. It was the earliest attempt to produce cheap books by compressing the matter into a small space, and by reducing the size of the page, and it is believed that the handwriting of Petrarch suggested the size and design of the letters. The type is what is called ” lower case,” only the capitals being Roman in form. It contains a large number of tied letters, to imitate handwriting, but is quite free from contractions and ligatures. It was counterfeited almost immediately, and in 1503 a “Petrarch ” was printed at Fano by one Hieronymo Soncino, in which the printer in his colophon accuses Aldus unjustly of having claimed for himself the merit of the invention of the italic character, which was, he says, due to Francesco da Bologna (Plate VIII.). As a matter of fact, this Francesco da Bologna had, it is said, designed and cast all the previous founts of type used by Aldus, but none of them had attracted special attention till this very beautiful type appeared. The “Virgil is extremely rare, three copies on vellum being known ; and the ” Petrarch,” printed at Fano, is rarer still ; but the type, once introduced, rapidly made its way, and became very popular. Originally it was called Venetian or Aldine, but subsequently italic type, except in Germany and Holland, where it is called ” cursive.” The Italians also adopted the Latin names ” characteres cursivi seu cancellarii.” In England it was first used by Wynkyn de Worde in his ” Oratio ” in 1524. First intended and used for classical works throughout, it was after a while employed to distinguish parts of a book not properly belonging to the text, latterly for quotations or for words that do not rightly form part of the text, and finally for special emphasis on certain words and passages. It was produced in six different sizes by Francesco da Bologna, between 1501 and 1558. It will be noticed that Aldus from the very first gave the credit for designing it to his type – founder, Francesco da Bologna, in the following lines which appear in the book.
For some time there was a controversy as to whether this type-founder was, or was not, to be connected with Francesco Raibolini, called Francia. The discovery, however, of a book printed by Leonardi in 1502, in which the same style of type is used and given in unmistakable terms to Francesco da Bologna, “aliter Franza,” opened the question for further investigation, and then it was noticed that Azzoguidi of Bologna had used a somewhat similar type in his ” Ovid,” printed in 1471, which also was said to be the work of one ” Franze di Bologna.” Eventually Sir Anthony Panizzi dealt with the entire question in an able manner in his tract,* and, investigating all the authorities, was able in the most definite manner to settle the question that Francesco da Bologna was undoubtedly the same man as ” Francesco Raibolini detto il Francia.” It has been suggested that the first book intended to be set up in this new type was ” Le Cose Volgari di Messer Francesco Petrarcha,” actually issued in the July of the same year (” del mese di Luglio MDI “), and that it was being set up from a manuscript in Petrarch’s handwriting ; and that this gave the suggestion that, in the new handy octavo volumes that the great printer was about to issue, the type should be designed specially, and on the lines of that beautiful penmanship. In that case the work must have been stopped, and eventually it was decided that a greater book should be the first to appear in the new type. However that may be, it is clear that the type made by our artist was highly approved, and Leo X. gave a special letter of privilege to Aldus retaining to him the sole right to its use. The letter did not, however, prevent its being copied, and in many parts of Italy it was speedily forged ; and in Lyons books were issued in a similar type bearing the very name and mark of Aldus, and intended to deceive the unwary purchaser.
Vasari records yet another occupation when he speaks of a fine set of harness which Francia made for the Duke of Urbino, and which he decorated with a scene of a great forest on fire, with numerous frightened animals rushing out. He praises very highly the beauty and delicacy of the work, and the truth of all the drawing from Nature in the scenes.
It is not perhaps a work of supererogation to mention in this place that the Franco Bolognese named by Dante as a pupil of Oderighi the miniaturist, who was a friend of Giotto, is not the same person as Francesco Raibolini called ” il Francia,” as he lived in Bologna one hundred and fifty years before our artist was born. The mistake has unfortunately been made by a careless writer who did not trouble to verify his dates, and who has built upon the false premiss a whole structure of theory as to Raibolini’s early work as a miniaturist. Franco was employed by Boniface VIII., who died in 1294, and he was to a great extent the founder of the Bolognese School, of which in 1500 Raibolini was so great an ornament.