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Engraving Design for a Tapestry 

Giochi di Putti

This is one of a series of prints 4 known as the Giochi di Putti (Putti games) or the Tapezzerie de Papa (The Tapestries of the Pope). The engravings were made by Maestro del Dado, or 'Master of the Die', who was an Italian engraver and printmaker. His year of birth and death are unknown. The identity of the Master of the Die is uncertain, estimated 1525–1560. He was given this name because he signed his prints with a small die. He worked in the style of the famous Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483–1520) who an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. The tapestries were woven in Flanders for Pope Leo X. The print is presently in the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, England.

The other three prints are an ordinary depicting of the playing puti. The print here is interesting because it contains alchemical symbols. The middle putti is crowned and carries scepter and keys, and stands with one foot on a globe. The child-king is the reborn alchemist. The old king died, the new king is born. The sphere is the symbol for the perfect soul, as the sphere is the Greek philosopher Plato's symbol for the original divine soul, because the sphere is the perfect three-dimensional form. We find this sphere also in Albrecht Dürer's famous engraving Melencolia of 1514, and in a few other alchemical engravings. The keys open the door to knowledge.

Above the putti we have two alchemical birds: the eagle and the phoenix. The eagle usually symbolizes the philosophical Mercury after its sublimation. The phoenix is the bird that dies in the fire and is reborn from its ashes; the symbol for rebirth in the third and last phase of the Great work, or Rubedo, Redness.

Above the middle puti, the reborn child-king, is the shining sun with a lion in it. The lion is generally the symbol for the last phase too, after the volatile Mercury has been fixed. The lion is synonymous with Gold or Sulfur.

Inscribed on the plate, in the lower center, 'Gio: Iacomo Rossi formis Romae alla Pace under the banner of Paris, 1655'; just below on the left. 'Rapha. Ur. In.'; a little further 'Tappezzerie del Papa'; on the right the die with the letter B, and 'Ant. Lafrerji Formis'.

I found a modern colored version of the engraving but I don't know who made it:

Giochi di Putti