The Phoenix Rises from the Ashes – A Rare Account of A Baroque Roman Festival - No Copies in North America

FESTIVALS. ROME. Mottman, Cornelius Hendrik (17th c.)

Relatione delle feste e fuochi artificiati fatti in segno d'allegrezza per l'Elettione e Coronatione della Maestà del Re dei Romani seguita nella persona di Ferdinando III Re di Ungheria e di Boemia.

Rome: Lodovico Grignani, 1637


Quarto: [8] p. With 3 full-page engraved plates (1 folding.)


Bound in contemporary decorated cartoncino. Lower blank margin of final leaf repaired. Excellent. Extremely rare. Five copies located worldwide. No copies in North America.

An extremely rare account of the celebrations (complete with fireworks) held at Rome in celebration of the coronation of Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor (1 Feb., 1637). The three large (unsigned) plates show the monumental sets and macchinedesigned and built for the theatrical and pyrotechnic displays. The festivities took place over several days in front of the Palazzo Madama. On the first day, a dramatization of the rebirth of the Phoenix played out on a great artificial mountain. The mountain served subsequently as the setting for a struggle between Hercules and the Hydra, and later, a battle between a centaur and the Imperial Eagle. The text begins by describing Ferdinand's personal qualities, the context for the celebrations and the symbolism of the apparatus. The festivities were sponsored, and the relation written, by Monsignor Cornelius Hendrik Mottman, Rota Auditor of the Empire.

 For the allegory of the Phoenix, the sun emitted a jet of flame, directed at the wondrous bird, that set off fireworks hidden within the mountain and reduced the Phoenix to ashes. Another Phoenix arose, seemingly reborn. This second Phoenix represented the Empire, which many had thought nearly extinguished, but was now rising again under the rule of the newly crowned Ferdinand.

For the combat between Hercules and the Hydra, the mountain was painted with various snakes. On the top stood a figure of Hercules with a winged figure, suspended in the air above, holding a crown of laurel. The multi-headed Hydra had heads of different animals - wolf, dog, bear, lion and crocodile - and one of Medusa. Fireworks shot from Hercules' club at the Hydra, whose heads, once decapitated, appeared again. When the Hydra had finally been defeated, the winged figure descended to place the laurel crown on the head of Hercules, at whose feet appeared the words HERCULI AUSTRIACO ('Hercules of Austria').

For thebattle between the centaur and the Imperial Eagle, the mountain was outfitted with the arms of the Empire, flanked by trophies overseen by allegorical figures representing Fame, Piety, and Justice. In the folding engraving, the centaur, brandishing a torch, is beset by the crowned eagle descending from a cloud.

Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, 'La festa barocca', Corpus delle feste a Roma 1, Rome, 1997, pp. 295-6); Fagiolo dell'Arco and S. Carandini, 'L'effimero barocco: strutture della festa nella Roma del '600', 2 volumes, Rome, 1977-8, i, pp. 97-8). See Mark McDonald, The print collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo: ceremonies, costumes, portraits and genre. Part C.I of The paper museum of Cassiano Dal Pozzo: a catalogue raisonné (3 volumes, Royal Collection Trust 2017)