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[Allegory of the four continents]
Published by Daudet, rue Saint-Jacques in Paris, this rare series of four prints represents an allegory of the four continents. Europe, Africa, America and Asia are represented by the engraver by means of an iconography set up from the 16th century by Cesare Ripa. In the famous "Iconologia", first published in 1593 before being translated and adapted into French by Jean Baudoin, the continents are all described and characterized.
Africa is thus presented as: "almost naked, with frizzy hair, an Elephant's head for a crest, and a necklace of coral. She holds a Scorpion in her right hand, and in her left hand a Horn of Plenty full of ears of corn, and is always followed by a lion and snakes. If the establishment of such codes initially responds to a humanist desire to fix the bases of an iconographic tradition through a stable symbolic language, this one constitutes a source exploited for a long time not only by the artists of the Grand Siècle, but also during the XVIIIth century as attested by this set.
The main liberty taken here by the engraver with respect to the norms established by Ripa consists essentially in a redisposition of the attributes as well as the addition of a landscape and protagonists surrounding the allegorical figure. Each composition is completed by a letter in Latin and French providing details on each continent. This set of four prints is very rare. They are indeed absent from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Engraved with brilliance, these works are enhanced with four colors that embellish these works and reinforce their unity.