Giovanni Battista Bracelli is considered a mysterious harbinger in the history of art. He was a visionary engraver who in a way predated – by three hundred years – the 20th-century intuitions claimed by Dadaism and Surrealism.
Experts still discuss the sources that may have inspired the Florentine artist to create his etchings, published in Livorno in a 1624 book titled “Bizarie di varie figure” (literally, “Peculiarity of Various Figures”).
Some believe his work was based on drawings by Villard De Honnecourt (13th century) and Erhard Schön (16th century), or perhaps on the grotesque portrait heads painted by Arcimboldo, and Luca Cambiaso’s “cubist” compositions.
But let’s not forget: the man-like figures made up of geometric and imaginary elements express Bracelli’s interest in ironical caricatures and his mordant humor – which sparked his creativity and enjoyment – rather than a desire for experimental research.
Whatever his artistic process may have been, to this day we can certainly still enjoy this parade of odd, twisty puppets, some of which truly seem related to De Chirico’s mannequins, or to some of Dalí’s inventions.