4. Probst’s Prodigal Son Among the Harlots


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The Prodigal Son among the Harlots, the 3rd scene in a series of 6
Georg Balthasar Probst (German, 1732–1801), ca. 1770
Calvin College Center Art Gallery, 2012.18.1

Filius depertitus inter scorta. / Il figliuolo prodigo frà le puttane.
L’enfant prodigue entre les putains. / Der verlohrne Sohn bey den Huren.
The prodigal son among the harlots.

Med: Folo No 20.

C.P.S.C.M. [Cum Privilegio Sacrae Caesareae Majestatis]
With the privilege of the Holy Imperial Majesty or Holy Roman Empire

George Balthasar Probst, excud. A.V. [George Balthasar Probst, excudit Augsburg]
Printed or published in Augsburg by Georg Balthasar Probst

With this series, Probst depicts the New Testament story of the Prodigal Son according to the compositional constraints of the vue d’optique by emphasizing the architectural setting of each episode (with the exception of the scene of The Prodigal Son among the Swine). This particular print shows the Prodigal Son within a brothel with various references not only to illicit sexual activity but luxurious living generally: playing cards, feasting, drinking, and dancing.

Published around 1770, Probst’s series served as the source for Remondini’s publication of the same series some fourteen year later. Notwithstanding the imperial privilege and protection noted at the bottom of Probst’s print, C.P.S.C.M. [Cum Privilegio Sacrae Caesareae Majestatis / With the privilege of the Holy Imperial Majesty or Holy Roman Empire], Probst was left with little practical recourse. The reversal of the Remondini images indicates that the Probst images were used directly for the etching of the new plates in Italy. Comparison of Probst’s series with that published in Bassano underscores, however, the substantial differences in quality even within this popular genre of print production.

For details of the picture’s content, see entry #7 on the same scene in Remondini’s series.


Literature: Sixt v. Kapff, Guckkastenbilder aus dem Augsburger Verlag von Georg Baltashar Probst, 1732–1801 (Weißenhorn: Anton H. Konrad Verlag, 2010), pp. 456–59.