Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione ("Il Grechetto") (Italian, 1609–1664); published in 1648 by Giovanni Giacomo de' Rossi (Italian, 1627–1691); dedicated to Matthys van de Merwede, lord of Clootwyck (Dutch, ca. 1625–after 1677)
14 x 9 5/8 in. (35.5 x 24.5 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.17-36)
Castiglione made some sixty etchings, all characterized by lively handling and highly personal content. He was influenced by Anthony van Dyck, in whose studio he worked in Genoa, and later by the etchings of Rembrandt, just a few years his senior, working in Amsterdam. Castiglione etched this autobiographical image in Genoa and brought the plate to Rome in 1647; it was published in 1648 and dedicated to Matthys van de Merwede, lord of Clootwyck, a Dutch nobleman and patron of the arts who lived in Italy from 1647 to 1650.
The seated young man holding a trumpet and a book represents Fame, also alluded to by the putto holding a trumpet and pointing to a laurel wreath. The rabbit and the basket with birds symbolize fruitfulness. The palette, brushes, and music sheet refer to the arts, although their placement on the ground and the crumpled state of the music sheet sound a pessimistic note, suggesting the futility of human accomplishment. Further, although the base supporting a bust is sculpted with laurel, it is overgrown with grass.