ca, 16980 · Roma
As the title-page reads, this copy was printed specially for Cardinal Imperiali, a nobleman from Genoa and general treasurer under Pope Innocent XI. There is stamp of the Imperiali Library on the title-page as well as an inscription in brown ink. Along with the library stamp, there is printed in the pedestal on lower right of the architectural border, an "eagle with a crown", the arms of the Imperiali family, which is repeated on the covers of the vellum binding.
The book is a collection of 31 engravings after the frescoes that Niccolò Circignani, known as Pomarancio (1530-1597), painted around 1582 in the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio. Commission by Pope Gregory XIII, Pomarancio, with the help of Antonio Tempesta and Matteo da Siena, created a series of over thirty fresco painting honoring Catholic martyrs from both antiquity and the Reformation period. This cycle is considered one of Pomarancio's masterpieces.
In 1585 Giovanni Battista Cavalieri (1525-1601?) created a series of thirty-one engravings of Pomarancio's frescos of Christian martyrs and published them under the title, Ecclesiae militantis triumphi. Cavalieri was a noted artist and engraver who worked for many publishers until the 1570's when he began to produce work under his own name. In the early 1580's he produced two monumental series of effigies, one of the Popes and a second of the Roman Emperors, each with over one hundred engravings.
In 1595 a second edition of his "book of martyrs" was published with a different title-page, this one with a monumental architectural border with two women holding a crown over the title. It was this title-page border that was used to enclose the unique title that appears in this suite of plates given to Cardinal Imperiali in the 1680's. The engraved plates must have survived in the archive of Santo Stefano Rotondo and were used again one hundred years after they were created to produce this honorific publication for Cardinal Imperiali.
Mortimer. Italian 16th Century Books, I, nos. 125, 126 and 117-119. Brunet I, 1697.Cicognara I, 2008. Bury, Michael. The Print in Italy 1550-1620, p. 224. . (Inventory #: 977)