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on him will death's descent be sudden

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Giovanni Paolo Cimerlini
(Verona, active circa 1568)

This extremely rare print, 22 mm x 112 mm, illustrates the homiletic substance of The Seafarer. When Cimerlini was active, in the 1560s, the depiction of Death surprising men and women was almost exclusively treated in German art. (Cf Dürer). To the left we see the Ankou, recently arrived from Brittany or Cornwall [ancow (C.Voc. ancou), m., death: A New Cornish-English Dictionary, R.Morton-Nance, 1938, Agan Tavas 1999], and to the right we see a group of tootling men and women (no harps al fresco), probably wingal, possibly wlonc, and almost certainly unwearn. In the centre are what look like three studious owls, in view of the prominent owl seemingly performing some sort of decoy function, and strung along by the Ankou.

detail 1

To the upper left we see a benign anfloga, here in the guise of an attractive angel holding a shield from which a coat of arms, or perhaps a text, has been erased. There are no known impressions of this print prior to the erasure.

detail 2

In the centre we see three terrified human birds being chased into his fowling net by the Ankou. To the right, middle distance, is a ceol, ready to carry the Ankou's bag of game onwael weg, off on their one-way voyage ofer holma gelagu. Is that another Ankou shown on the swelling sail of the ceol? For Ankou, see annotations ll 62-64 [here].


Print courtesy Olimpia Theodoli, London/Luigi Majno, Milano
Catalogue 1997

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