Cornelis Floris, engraved by Frans Huys - Grotesque Mask Heads

These most fabulous grotesque masks come from a suite of about twenty-two prints designed by Cornelis Floris, engraved by Frans Huys and published in Antwerp in 1555 by Hans Liefrinck.

The late Baroque / early Mannerist designs incorporate an abstracted zoological motif, in most cases relating to the ocean, within an auricular ornamental style.

Auricular describes the smooth, curved, rippling and pliable shapes that resemble a human ear. The prints here are very early examples of this type of ornament which was developed by goldsmiths attempting to demonstrate organic forms extruding from the surface. The style probably influenced the later Rococo and Art Nouveau movements. {see: 1, 2, 3}

The print collection is called 'Pourtraicture ingenieuse de plusieurs façon de Masques. Fort utile aulx painctres, orseures, Taillieurs de pierres, voirriers et Taillieurs d'images'. It's either old or mangled French, essentially meaning: 'Ingenious portrayal of several types of mask. Useful for painters, stoneworkers [and other trades]'.

Incomplete sets of the suite are available from Rijksmuseum and MAK Vienna (via the Ornamental Prints Online portal). Just look up one of the artist/printer names. {The images in this post are from Rijksmuseum}.

Although MrH's sadly missed Giornale Nuovo is now offline, illustrated copies of the posts can thankfully be accessed via the Internet Archive. Faces of the Grotesque is well worth seeing.

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