(Another) look at Giovanni Battista Braccelli's Bizzarie di varie figure
March 12, 2014 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Giovanni Battista d'Antonio Braccelli was a Florentine artist (PDF*) who was active from 1616 to 1649, and is little known beyond some highly creative works. Finding details on his life can be more difficult due to multiple forms for his names (Giovanbatista, Bracelli, Braccielli, Brazzè, and the nickname "il Bigio" - the gray one) within his own work and secondary sources, and early writers conflated his biography with that of a Genoese painter of the same name. But if you enjoy surreal illustrations, check out Braccelli's Bizzarie di varie figure (online view from Gallica - Bibliothèque nationale de France; online and PDF in the US Library of Congress collection** from Lessing J. Rosenwald).

* The first link is to a great 45 page PDF hosted by The New York Society Library, apparently sourced from the Octavo edition of Bizzarie, which is an "enhanced" edition of the Library of Congress scan, with commentary (19 page PDF) from Sue Welsh Reed, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

** BNF and LOC have the only two known complete copies of Bizzarie, but the the plates are sequenced differently in the two copies. There are a handful of incomplete copies elsewhere.

Braccelli's Bizzarie di varie figure has been posted twice before: in 2003 with (dead) links to Octavo and LOC, and in 2007 as part of a post on the Rare Book Room website, which sourced its images from the Octavo version of the LOC copy.

One final tangent: though Braccelli was largely forgotten for a great period of time, Dalí and other 20th century surrealists were aware of Bizzarie. As noted in Displaying the Marvelous: Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and Surrealist Exhibition Installations (Google books preview), Dalí copied an image from a MoMA Fantastic Art catalogue, and even named a lamp in reference to "Bracelli". And Giovanni wasn't without precursor himself, as it is easy to draw connections from the earlier Mannerist artist, Guiseppe Arcimboldo, to the characters in Bizzaire.
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I just started in on the Bizarrie and yes, you can see the obvious precedents to surrealism there. Great post!
posted by immlass at 11:56 AM on March 12, 2014

Neat! Reminds me of Duchamp's futurist period.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:07 PM on March 12, 2014

Nice. And if I didn't know otherwise, I would have been sure that this image of Bracelli's was from some Stanislaw Lem book.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:08 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

this is exactly the post to make my day! wonderful, thanks!
posted by ouke at 1:36 PM on March 12, 2014

I’ve known about the Bizzarie for some time but don’t recall having read the article in your first link before, which is by some distance the most detailed piece I’ve seen regarding Braccelli. Many thanks for the post.
posted by misteraitch at 2:10 AM on March 13, 2014

I’ve known about the Bizzarie for some time

I thought there was a misteraitch here. Sorry for not giving you more credit for your posts on Braccelli.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on March 13, 2014

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