Sacrifice to Priapus (Large Plate), c. 1498-1500
Jacopo de' Barbari
engraving on laid paper
22.9 x 16.8 cm trimmed within platemark
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5068)
Hind V 23
Jacopo de' Barbari was reportedly born in Venice, where he was active in the late-15th fifteenth century. Trained in the ideals of the Italian Renaissance, he was appointed court painter to Emperor Maximilian I in 1500 and lived in Nuremburg, where he mentored the German artist and printmaker Albrecht Dürer. In 1503 he moved to Wittenberg to work for Frederick III (The Wise), Elector of Saxony. This early engraving depicts an act of thanksgiving to the fertility god Priapus, seen as a bearded half-figure on a stone pillar. A woman presents her child, who offers a wreath for the god; a priestess with a cornucopia under her arm burns incense on an altar. Two half-hidden figures in the background seem removed from the ritual and may be visitors passing through the temple. The wand of Mercury, next to the tablet hanging from the carefully rendered tree branch is an emblem de' Barbari used to sign his work.