Warriors and Builders


Full image.



René Boyvin
French, 1525–1598(?)
after Enea Vico
Italian, 1523–1567
Six Shields, One with Elephant, from Trophées d’armes
(Trophies of Arms)
, 1575
Collection of Laurent Ferri


René Boyvin, along with his teacher, Pierre Milan, was responsible for the development of a clear and compelling engraving technique that became dominant in Paris for the dissemination of court imagery in the form of prints of royal decorations and designs for lavish furnishings for the king’s table. This print shows Boyvin’s knowledge of the work of prolific Italian engraver Enea Vico, and he copies Vico’s design faithfully in reverse while lending the arms and armor in Vico’s print an even greater metallic hardness and clarity characteristic of Boyvin’s style.


Such images of trophies served a dual purpose. First, like many things in the Renaissance, these images were inspired by ancient Roman sources; in reference to Roman history, therefore, they represent the spoils of war—the arms and armor of the vanquished—and the glory due the victor.  As such, when seen as part of the decorative program of noble and royal residences, trophies underscored the virility and military skill of a ruler; for example, similar designs are found in the carved wooden paneling of François’s personal gallery at Fontainebleau.  Additionally, with their implausible combinations of weapons and fantastic creatures, designs like these were intended to show the artist’s inventive skill. Michelangelo, for one, stated that an artist’s ability to create an image never seen before was a celebration of the divine within humanity.