Terminal Figure: Sphinx with crescent in her hair
Terminal Figure: Diana, goddess of the hunt
Jean Mignon (French, active in 1535–1556 or 1557)
Zerner 16, I/II Herbet 8 (as anonymous)
Sheet (Oval): 23.6 x 14.3 cm (9 5/16 x 5 5/8 in.) Platemark (Oval): 23.2 x 13.9 cm (9 1/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
Jean Mignon is documented as painter active at Fontainebleau in the late 1530s. By 1550, he was in Paris making prints after designs by the painter Luca Penni. This delightful term figure comes from a series of 20 plates featuring identifiable mythological figures as well as less specific flights of fancy. Though the lack of documented comparative material precludes precise dating, the relatively simple graphic means employed suggest that Mignon made them near the beginning of his career as an etcher, about 1543-44. Though early cataloguers categorized the prints in the term series as engravings by an anonymous artist, they are in fact etchings and fit rather well with other works attributed to Mignon. Precisely where they were made and who designed them remains unknown.
The diadem in the hair of the sphinx strongly suggests that she is Diana, goddess of the hunt. Several other mythological figures are identifiable in the series, among them Hercules, Bacchus, and Diana of Ephesius. It is possible that the present etching alludes to Diane de Poitiers. A central figure at the French court, mentor and mistress to Henri II, who ascended to the throne in 1547, she was the subject of numerous works of art.
Verso upper center in pen and brown ink: del Roma
Paul Prouté (Paris); from whom purchased by Judy Pillsbury (Paris), about 1990; her gift to MFA, 13 December 2006.
Gift of Judith Pillsbury in honor of Sue Welsh Reed