IH, unmounted s. on plate b. r. "Sim Watts sct 1767"; inscr. on plate b. l. "Giulio Romano delt."; inscr. on plate b. c. "In the Collection of John Earl Spencer / CR edit."; inscr. verso c. in pencil "101 [circled]" CRE WATTS, Simon; (English; act 1760-1780) AFTER ROMANO, Giulio; (Italian; 1499-1546) PUB ROGERS, Charles; (English; 1711-1784) This unbound volume is part of William Hunter's original bequest. Published by Charles Rogers (1711-1784), an eminent eighteenth century collector, it consists of 112 prints accompanied by introductory texts on the artists represented. It highlights the wealth of old master drawings held in contemporary private British collections and is among the most impressive art historical writings of 18th century England.
This drawing belonged to the first Earl Spencer (1734-1783), a politician and keen supporter of the arts. A friend of Reynolds, he built a collection of Italian paintings and drawings, possibly with his assistance. As one of Raphael's most capable students, Guilio Romano was of great interest to eighteenth century collectors but he became a great fresco painter in his own right and his drawings were very highly accomplished.
Romano represents Time as a man devouring his children, illustrating how time consumes what it has given birth to. Nature leans on a serpent swallowing its own tail to symbolise nature's constant renewing of itself. In his notes, Rogers talks about the origins of these symbols in ancient philosophy. This is one of two drawings by Romano represented in the volume (Glaha 9081).