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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Torquato Tasso

Paintings and Drawings
Japanese Prints
Thank You
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Click picture to enlarge

Stefano Tofanelli (artist)
Raffaello Morghen (engraver)
Torquato Tasso
Circa 1826
Engraving on paper
6 1/4 x 8 1/2 in.
From the Collection of Mary Crane Hone.
Originally belonged to John Hone Jr.

Who was Torquato Tasso?
Torquato Tasso was a poet/playwright born in Sorrento, Italy in 1544. He studied under the direction of the Jesuits at the Court of the Dukes of Urbino and later studied law and philosophy at the University of Padua. He completed his studies at the University of Bologna. He later joined the court of the Este at Ferrara, where he remained for many years.
His epic poem Jerusalem Delivered, which chronicles the exploits of Godfrey of Boulogne during the First Crusade, was his most famous piece of poetry. His anxiety over offending the religious community led to psychological problems for the poet. Tasso would have all of his friends and local clergymen read his poetry and give him critiques, but sometimes the critiques were more than he could bear. Suffering from a persecution complex, he spent time first in a convent, and then in a hospital. He spent the end of his life searching for the perfect working conditions for a poet, but ironically died at a monastery in Rome in 1595, just one day before he was to have been crowned poet laureate.
The Engraving
In this engraving, Tasso is shown with a laurel wreath crowning his head. Laurel leaves were originally used for divination, but soon became a symbol for those who were divinely inspired – i.e. poets. Since laurel wreaths were used to crown famous poets in antiquity, this brings Tasso back to a time when poets were particularly glorified for their craft. Since Tasso had such a hard time with criticism and continually looked for a new group of critics that would give him the praise he desperately sought, this portrayal of the poet seems a fitting tribute. It also may show Tasso having been crowned poet laureate, a title that he missed by a day. There is a troubled look in his face, which seems appropriate for someone who led an extraordinarily anxiety-ridden life.
The engraving's frame is carved wood with gesso.
The Painter: Stefano Tofanelli
Stefano Tofanelli was born in Lucca, Italy in 1750. He primarily made drawings for engravers, but he also painted altarpieces, mythological scenes, and portraiture. During his lifetime, he did several drawings for the engraver Raffaello Morghen, and of these drawings, many of them were copies of the Old Masters. Tofanelli died in Lucca in 1810 at the age of sixty.
The Engraver: Raffaello Morghen
In 1758, Raffaello Sanzio Morghen was born into a family of German engravers residing in Naples, Italy. His earliest teacher was his father, but he was soon placed under the direction of the celebrated Giovanni Volpato. He assisted his master with engraving the paintings of Raphael in Vatican City. Soon he was invited to Florence to engrave more paintings by the Old Masters, like Leonardo da Vinci, among others. In 1803, The Insitute of France elected him an associate, and in 1812, Napolean himself invited Morghen to Paris, where he paid him a great deal of attention. Not only was Morghen famous during his time; he was also quite prolific- he composed over 200 engravings  just while he was in Florence. Morghen died while in Florence in 1833.