Rare and impressive multi-block woodcut representing the biblical story of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac, executed by Ugo da Carpi in Venice circa 1515, in four sections on four sheets of paper. When the sheet edges are joined (as dictated by the composition), the print measures about 80 × 107 cm (about 31 × 42 inches). At least eight editions of the print were issued, all without date. The earliest was published by Bernardino Benalio, who on 9 February 1515 had applied for a privilege to print three books and an unspecified number of prints, including ‘la hystoria del sacrifitio de abraham’. The first three editions are known by unique impressions (in Berlin, Gotha, and Chatsworth respectively); our impression is from the fourth edition, probably printed c. 1546–1549, shortly after the death of Bernardino Benalio, and a presumed sale of his shop materials. Six complete impressions of the fourth edition are recorded in public collections (Berlin, Boston, Hamburg, London, Paris, Vienna); the last impression seen on the market was sold by C.G. Boerner in 1933 (Auktion 183, lot 1088).
The print is believed to originate from a design by Titian, who was working in the same period on another large-scale narrative woodcut, ‘The Submersion of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea’ (on twelve blocks and over two metres wide). The ‘Sacrificio del Patriarca Abraham’ was subsequently issued (fifth, sixth and seventh editions) with Titian’s name added on the cartouche, but it is uncertain whether this occurred during the painter’s lifetime (c. 1488/1490–1576).