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A Series Of Plates, Engraved After The Paintings And Sculptures Of The Most Eminent Masters Of The Early Florentine School; Intended To Illustrate The History Of The Restoration Of The Arts Of Design In Italy; And Dedicated To John Flaxman, Esq. R.A. Professor Of Sculpture To The Royal Academy, (In Token Of High Respect For His Genius,) By William Young Ottley, F.A.S. Author Of "An Inquiry Into The Origin And Early History Of Engraving;" "The Italian School Of Design," &c.

William Young Ottley

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Série de planches gravées d'après les peintures et les sculptures


London:: Published By The Editor, No. 31, Devonshire-Street, Portland-Place; And Sold By Colnaghi And Co., Pall-Mall East, Cooke, Soho Square, Molteno, Pall-Mall, Printsellers; And By Hessey, Bookseller, Fleet-Street., 1826.

Physical Description

[4] p., 54 pl.; 534 mm.

General Note

The 54 plates are assigned numbers in 'A List Of The Plates', but only eighteen of them are numbered in the plate itself, viz. nos. 2, 5, 19, 21, 26, 29, 32, 37, 39, 42-46, 48, 50, 51, 53, 54. Plate XLII is misnumbered ILII. In the Academy's copy all plates are engraved as 'Proof' apart from eighteen (nos. 3-5, 9, 13-15, 20, 31, 35, 36, 40, 41, 49, 52). In some copies there is an additional titlepage in French ('Série de planches gravées d'après les peintures et les sculptures ...'); in some copies the introduction and list of plates are printed in both English and French.


[T.p., incl. text,] 'To The Lovers Of The Fine Arts' - A List Of The Plates ... I(-LIV); [advertisement] - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

All plates are signed with the names of source-artists, draughtsmen (W.Y. Ottley, C. Cencione, D. Humbert, T. Piroli, 'N.N.' or W. Long) and engravers (T. Piroli, W.Y. Ottley, J. Godby, J. Sartain, D. Humbert).


E.K. Waterhouse, 'Some notes on William Young Ottley's Italian Primitives', in Italian studies presented to E.R. Vincent (1962); J.A. Gere, 'William Young Ottley as a collector of drawings', in British Museum quarterly, 18 (1953), p.44-53.

On interest in the early Renaissance see: Yale University Art Gallery, Italian Primitives: the case history of a collection (1972); Leicester Museums and Art Gallery, The Victorian vision of Italy 1825-1875 (1968); R. Rosenblum, Transformations in late eighteenth-century art (1967), esp. ch. 4, 'Towards the tabula rasa'; M. Hampton, William Roscoe and Italian Primitives [dissertation, New York Univy.] (1966); G. Previtali, La fortuna dei primitivi dal Vasari ai neoclassici (1964); E.A. Maser, The contributions of Thomas Patch and Ignatius Hugford to Italian art history [dissertation, Univy. of Chicago] (1948); T. Borenius, 'The rediscovery of the Primitives', in Quarterly Review, 239 (1923), p.258-70; C. von Klenze, 'The growth of interest in early Italian masters from Tischbein to Ruskin', in Modern philology, 4 (1906), p.207-274.

Surveys of reproduction techniques are S. Lambert, The image multiplied (1987) and C.H. Lloyd, Art and its images [exhibition catalogue] (1975).

Summary Note

Publication-dates are carried by all plates except one (pl. [34]). One (pl. 5) carries the date 1809 Mar. 10; the others, dates in 1825 or 1826: 1825 Jan. 1 (8 pl.), Feb. 1 (5 pl.), Mar. 1 (5 pl.), May 1 (5 pl.), June 1 (6 pl.), July 1 (6 pl.), 1826 Sep. 1 (17 pl.). (Only those plates published on September 1st 1826 and one of those dated July 1 1825 (pl. 48) carry plate-numbers.)

In the address 'To The Lovers Of The Fine Arts' Ottley states that it is his intention to display examples of design of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries from works at Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto and Rome.

The plates show works by an unknown artist ca. 1230, Giunta Pisano (2 plates), Greek artists ca. 1250, Niccola Pisano (3 pl.), Cimabue (3 pl.), A. Pisano, Giotto (10 pl.), P. Cavallini, Puccio Capanna (2 pl.), Tommaso di Stefano, Taddeo Gaddi (3 pl.), G. Gaddi, A. Gaddi, Orcagna, Ugolino di Prete Ilario, Uccello, L. Ghiberti (4 pl.), Donatello (2 pl.), Fra Angelico (2 pl.), Masaccio (3 pl.), Melozzo da Forli, Benozzo Gozzoli (4 pl.), Botticelli, Filippino Lippi and Luca Signorelli (3 pl.). Apart from one painting of two Muses, all plates show Christian subjects - the life of Christ, lives of St Francis and other saints and Old Testament narratives.

Ottley was enthusiastic admirer of early Renaissance painting, and here declares that 'in respect of the three great requisites of invention, composition and expression ... the best productions of these periods may even now be studied with profit, and those of Giotto ... abound in examples in which ... the intended subject is developed with a degree of perspicuity seldom equalled and perhaps never surpassed'.


A microfiche version was published in 1995 (Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey).


12 June 1819: 'Mr. Flaxman proposed that a Work consisting of Engravings from the Paintings of Masaccio, Gaddi, &c. be purchased for the use of the Library.' (RA Council Minutes VI, 72).

22 December 1826: £9.9.0 paid for William Ottley's A Series of Plates engraved after the paintings and sculptures of the ... Early Florentine School ...' (RA Council Minutes VII, 159).

Bound up with this copy are 12 advance proof impressions of the plates, for which Flaxman was reimbursed in 1819 (see Royal Academy Accounts RAA/TRE/1/3: 'Abstract of Bills ... Midsummer to Michaelmas 1819' ('Paid John Flaxman Esq. RA for a Vol. of Ancient Florentine Paintings £5. 15. 6.').

Copy Note

There are bound in at the end second copies of twelve plates, viz. nos. 3, 8, 12-17, 23, 24, 48, 51. These all carry numbers in the plate, whereas they are unnumbered in the main sequence in the book - apart from pl. [48], which is unnumbered here although carrying the number 48 in the main sequence. All the additional plates are engraved as 'Proof' apart from pl. '52'.

Binding Note

19th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; rebacked in 20th century, spine lettered 'Ottley's Florentine School'.

Name as Subject


Christian art and symbolism - Saints
Paintings, Italian - Frescoes - Mural painting and decoration - Sculpture - Church decoration and ornament - Churches - Italy - Tuscany - Florence - Pisa - Lucca - Umbria - Assisi - Perugia - Orvieto - Rome - History - 13th century - 14th century - 15th century - Renaissance
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 19th century


Giotto, source artist
John Flaxman RA, dedicatee
Lorenzo Ghiberti, source artist
Benozzo Gozzoli, source artist
Carlo Cencione, draughtsman
David Pierre Giottino Humbert de Superville, draughtsman
Tommaso Piroli, draughtsman, engraver
William Long, draughtsman
James Godby, engraver
John Sartain, engraver
Paul Colnaghi, bookseller
Dominic Charles Colnaghi, bookseller
William Bernard Cooke, bookseller
Anthony Molteno, bookseller
James Augustus Hessey, bookseller
William Clark, bookseller
Colnaghi and Company, bookseller