Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 4v
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations; 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    This popular book of moralized tales, most of which involve animals, was among the standard texts used to teach young children (mainly boys) to read. At least four different illustrated editions appeared in Italy in the fifteenth century, of which the most remarkable is the one published by the jurist and humanist Francesco del Tuppo in 1485. Del Tuppo provided a new Italian translation of the text, basing his life of Aesop on the Latin translation of Rinucius of Arezzo and his fables on an anonymous twelfth-century verse account. He also added interpretation and commentary.

    While the composition of some of the book's illustrations derives from those of the first illustrated Aesop of 1479 (21.4.3), the vigorous and decorative style of the eighty-eight cuts sets them entirely apart. Whether the product of a Spanish artist working in Spanish-controlled Naples, a reflection of the Moorish influence that had reached Naples through Sicily, or the result of a German artist working in the Italian tradition, the illustrations are of an astonishing originality.

    The mythical life of Aesop, a series of moralizing narratives, plays off Aesop's clownish appearance—he was reputed to be a hunchbacked dwarf with an outsized head—against his great wisdom and goodness. This illustration shows how Aesop, falsely accused by two of his fellow slaves of eating his master's figs, proves his innocence by drinking a vessel of warm water and making himself vomit, revealing nothing but water in his stomach. The guilty party is then compelled to regurgitate the stolen figs.

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  • [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 4v
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations; 11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 9v
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations

    11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    This illustration provides another example of Aesop's cleverness. When Aesop chose to carry the heavy breadbox of his master, rather than a lighter package, the other slaves took him for a fool. Yet as soon as they had eaten their first meal along the road, his burden was greatly lightened. And after the next meal, he had nothing to carry but an empty container.

    [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 35v
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations

    11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    The kindly Aesop is shown attempting to reform his adopted son—who had been caught plotting Aesop's murder—by giving him a series of precepts by which to live. Overcome by guilt, the son throws himself off a steep cliff, "thus ending his evil life."

    Del Tuppo's translation of the life of Aesop was later published separately, with an entirely different set of woodcuts (Venice, 1492; 20.89.1).

    [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 71v
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations

    11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    This illustration depicts the donkey who, upon seeing his master's dog so well fed, thought to endear himself by frolicking in a similar fashion, jumping up on his hind legs and wagging his tail. This bizarre behavior so alarmed the donkey's owner that he called out for help. Given a few sound blows, the ass ceased his playing and was left in a sorrowful state. The moral is that one should not go against one's own nature.

    [Aesopus moralitus] Vita, Fabulae (The Moralized Aesop; Life, Fables): Folio 112
    Author: Aesop
    Translator and editor: Francesco del Tuppo
    Naples: Francesco del Tuppo, February 13, 1485
    Printed book with woodcut (or metalcut?) illustrations

    11 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 7/8 in. (28.5 x 21 x 2.3 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1931 (31.62.9)

    The fable of the ant and the fly is not unlike that of the country mouse and the city mouse. The fly boasted that he partook of the finest wines and the choicest delicacies and drank and ate from vessels of precious metal. But the wise ant, who ate simply and lived by his honest labor, pointed out that the fly was always unwanted and scorned and could never take a bite without being in fear for his life.


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