Full image.



Etienne Delaune
French, 1518–1585
Battle of Nude Men, ca. 1550
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore B. Donson, Class of 1960


The son of a tailor to François I, Etienne Delaune grew up following the itinerant royal court with his father. Like many engravers, he was first trained as a goldsmith, and created many designs for armor, jewelry, and decorative objects. During the reign of François’s son Henri II, Delaune produced prints and also engraved the surfaces of parade armors designed for the king.  This commonality between metalwork and engraving is not surprising, and his prints, like this one, often show a precision and intricacy associated with his original profession.


This print is one of a series of twelve in horizontal format, all of which draw their inspiration ultimately from Roman relief carving and especially the prints of 15th century Italian artist Andrea Mantegna after antique friezes. In fact, many of the plates for Mantegna’s prints had made their way to France and were being printed and distributed there in Delaune’s time.


This particular composition is also interesting from the standpoint of the exploration of the New World during this century. The leaf-shaped clubs and feathered garments, as well as the implication of cannibalism by the men who bite each other, are drawn from accounts and images of indigenous Americans brought back by explorers. Indeed, one of the most famous essays by French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), entitled “Of Cannibals,” was inspired by his encounter in Rouen in 1562 with three Brazilian Tupinambá Indians who had been brought to France by the explorer Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon (1510–1571). A further layer of interpretation of this work is that cannibalism was sometimes used as a metaphor for the violence between Catholic and Protestant countrymen during the wars of religion.