Old Master printsThere are 17 items

  • Master of the E-series Tarocchi, active circa 1465

    [Northern Italy], before 1467
    This print belongs to the first version (conventionally designated E-series) of a group of fifty engravings known as the “Tarocchi Cards of Mantegna” – despite being neither true tarocchi nor related to Mantegna. “Rhetorica” is one of ten images in the third group of the set (marked with the letter C and numbered 21-30) personifying ten “Liberal Arts”: the classical seven known as the trivium (Grammar, Dialectic or Logic, Rhetoric) and quadrivium (Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, Astronomy or Astrology), raised to ten by the addition of Poetry, Philosophy and Theology. Many critics place the “Tarocchi” among the most important of the incunabula of printmaking in Italy. It appears that the fifty matrices were repeatedly struck, without alterations, perhaps over a period of twenty or thirty years, during which various colours of ink were employed: grey, bluish green, greenish grey, greenish brown, with the ink always watery and thin in quality, often with enhancements in gold. The present impression is softly printed in a delicate grey ink. It was acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in November 1897 (Henry Foster Sewall bequest), and deaccessioned in 1918, since when it has been in private collections.
  • Carpi (Ugo da), c. 1480-1532

    [Venice], c. 1511-1515

    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).

  • Monogrammist LA (Lucantonio degli Uberti?), active c. 1489-1520

    [Venice], c. 1515-1520
    A four-sheet woodcut print representing the dramatic biblical account of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18). The same formal structure, figural motifs, and landscape elements are found in the two greatest monumental woodcuts designed by Titian, ‘The Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea’ and ‘The Sacrifice of Abraham’, both printed about 1515, leading some critics to surmise that the unnamed designer was active in the circle of Titian, if not Titian himself, and conjecture contemporaneous dates of invention or execution. The earliest states of the woodcut bear the monogram ‘LA’ of the printmaker, an artist probably to be identified with Lucantonio degli Uberti, a Florentine, who worked in Venice during the first two decades of the sixteenth century. Lucantonio’s oeuvre includes an edition in nine blocks of Titian’s ‘Triumph of Christ’, a variety of other multi-block woodcut prints and maps, and at least six single-sheet intaglio prints. He was a prolific book illustrator, signing woodcuts with his initials in different variations, working for other publishers as well as selling his own books and prints from a shop situated beside the Ponte San Moise.

    Ten complete impressions and three fragments of this print are known, of which at least four were printed in the seventeenth century. This impression is on a watermarked paper produced at mills in the Trentino and Friuli, c. 1580-1587.
  • Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor

    Venice, 1530 (1 July)

    A multi-block woodcut print depicting Charles V’s triumphal entry into Bologna on 5 November 1529, in anticipation of his coronation by Pope Clement VII as Holy Roman Emperor, on his 30th birthday (24 February 1530). The individual woodcuts show a continuous parade of nobility, standard-bearers and heralds, musicians, knights in armour on horseback, arquebusiers, halberdiers, pikemen, and riders drawing artillery, moving from right to left. They were intended to be joined together laterally to form a frieze nearly nine metres long, and when fixed to the wall of a room, or assembled as a scroll, the print offered a panorama where the onlooker could see – or see once again, if he had been present – the whole cortège pass before his eyes. Descriptive captions, cut in separate wood blocks and printed in the upper margins, guided the viewer along; near the end of the frieze, he would read ‘Stampata in uenetia a di p.° Iulio 1530’ (Printed in Venice, 1 July 1530).

    Multi-sheet, ‘mural’ prints are notoriously susceptible to destruction and loss. Of this woodcut, just six other impressions are recorded, preserved in public collections in Florence (Uffizi), Ghent (University Library), London (British Museum; British Library), Paris (Bibliothèque nationale de France), and Vienna (Albertina). The complete complement of sixteen sheets is found in only two sets (Uffizi and British Library), the latter printed many decades later, after the blocks had become severely damaged by woodworm. The other sets, like ours, are deficient to varying extents. Since the complete date (1 July 1530) is not present on any other impression, our print appears to be a unique survivor of the earliest known state.

  • Baldung (Hans), 1484/85-1545

    Strassburg, 1534

    Series of three prints, woodcuts, printed in black: Group of Seven Horses (Stallion approaching a mare with ape, elk and man looking on), tablet inscribed I° . BALDVNG | FECIT | 1534; Group of Six Horses (Ejaculating stallion rejected by mare), signed on a tablet bottom right BALDVNG | FECIT | 1534; Group of Eight Horses (Wild horses fighting in a forest clearing), signed on a tablet lying on the ground BALDVNG 1534. Later impressions, trimmed closely, minor defects. Uniformly mounted and framed.

    Three woodcuts of startling originality and power, studies of equine sexual behaviour, depicting the arousal of the dominant stallion by a mare in heat, his refusal and humiliation, and subsequent battle among bachelors of the herd for dominance. The inclusion of a male spectator, possibly a self-portrait, among the trees in the background of the first scene, together with an ape (a symbol of man's fallen state), establishes an analogy between human and animal behaviour. Taken together, the three prints might be an allegory of frenzied (and ultimately ungratified) human lust.

  • Bandinelli (Baccio), 1488-1560

    [Florence?], [anonymous publisher], 1548

    Engraving, 354 × 227 mm platemark, 530 × 385 mm sheet.

    This print reproduces in the same direction and nearly same size a drawing by the Florentine sculptor, painter, and draughtsman, Baccio Bandinelli, which is now in the Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre, in Paris (Inv. No. 190, 384 × 220 mm sheet). The large print is known in few impressions and may not have been ‘published’.

  • Androuet du Cerceau (Jacques), c. 1511-1585/1586

    Orléans, [published by the author], 1549
    This series of engravings of Roman triumphal arches composed in the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Orders, and selon l'ordre salomonique, is among the earliest dated publications of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, a pioneer in the production of the architectural model book. A complete set comprises a title and twenty-five plates. Six plates are missing from our group: the title, Larc dAncone, Larc de Benevente, Larc de Veronne par Vitruve larchitecteur, Larc de Suse, and Arc selon lordre ionique. The nine antique arches (the arches of Titus, of Septimius Severus, and of Constantine, in Rome; and the arches of Ancona, Verona, Benevento, Pola, Susa, and Ravenna) are mostly plagiarised from illustrations in Serlio's Terzo Libro and Quarto Libro, with Androuet du Cerceau integrating details and inscriptions that Serlio described separately. Androuet's sources for the other designs have yet to be identified.
  • Monogrammist SK

    [Rome?], c. 1550

    Engraving on four joined sheets, in first state (of 2). Image 360 × 1220 mm, sheets 405 × 1255 mm.

    A counterproof on parchment of the Monogrammist SK’s large print reproducing Raphael’s “The Battle of Ponte Milvio” in the Sala di Costantino of the Vatican (completed by Giulio Romano and Giovanni Francesco Penni in 1524). The print is not based on the finished fresco, but on an unknown modello (intermediary drawing) of Raphael’s design, transferred to the copper plate in the normal manner, which resulted in the printed image being reversed left to right. To regain the direction of the original fresco, this counterproof was taken: clean vellum sheets were placed on top of freshly-inked impressions, and run through the press. The use of parchment as a support is unusual in sixteenth-century Italy and suggests a specially dedicated copy. Our counterproof was made from an impression of the print in first state. Later impressions have an added publication line “Antverpiae [excu]debat Martin Petreius in insigni fontis propre [novam?] in Bursam”.

  • Herold (Johannes Basilius), 1514-1567

    [Basel], Johann Oporinus, 1556
    This large format woodcut, printed on twenty-one sheets and when assembled (as here) measuring over four metres high, is a family tree of the Wittelsbach dynasty over 1000 years, beginning with the Merovingian King Clovis I (466-511), and culminating with the Elector Palatine Friedrich II (1482-1556) and his wife Dorothea of Denmark. Also shown are the Bavarian and Palatine branches of the house (from Charlemagne to Charles V) and the Electors of the Rhineland Palatinate. Altogether, 934 half-length portraits and coats of arms are depicted. The wood blocks are signed by six draughtsmen or cutters: Jacob Clauser, David Kandel, Zacharias Specklin, Ieremias Wyssenbach, and two unidentified artists, one signing with the monogram HS with a pen or brush, the other with the monogram C with a cross and pen or brush.
  • Herold (Johannes Basilius), 1514-1567

    Basel, Johann Oporinus, 1556
    A spectacularly well-preserved monumental multi-block woodcut, printed on twenty-two large sheets, which when properly assembled as seven tiers of three sheets each, with three emblematical woodcuts joined to make the top border, form a picture surface of roughly 5.42 m2 (height × width: 420.5 × 129 cm, 165 × 51 in). Since their publication in 1556 the sheets have been contained in albums and have not suffered from damage caused by rolling or wall-mounting like other known impressions. The print is a family tree of the Wittelsbach dynasty over 1000 years, beginning with the Merovingian King Clovis I (466-511), and culminating with the Elector Palatine Friedrich II (1482-1556), and features 934 half-length portraits and coats of arms. On three sides is an integral border of arabesque ornament with 82 bust-length medallion portraits of Roman and Byzantine emperors and Sultan Suleiman the Great, each cut on a black ground. The wood blocks are signed by six draughtsmen or cutters: Jacob Clauser, David Kandel, Zacharias Specklin, Ieremias Wyssenbach, and two unidentified artists, one signing with the monogram HS with a pen or brush, the other with the monogram C with a cross and pen or brush. The project was begun at the command of Pfalzgraf Friedrich II (died 1556) but only completed at the urgent command of his successor Ottheinrich. Johannes Herold, who was entrusted with the task, published a small explanatory booklet, of which a copy has been bound in.
  • Scharffenberg (Georg), c. 1525/1530-after 1608

    Wolfenbüttel, Conrad Horn, 1584
    This monumental woodcut printed by forty-two blocks on nineteen assembled sheets (dimensions overall 236 × 91 cm) is a pictorial genealogy of some thirty generations of the Braunschweig-Lüneburg dynasty, displayed in the form of a tree with half-figure portraits of family members hanging like fruit on its branches. At the top is an imposing headpiece of an Emperor flanked by God the Father and His Son, certifying the authority and divine grace conferred upon the family. The print is dedicated to the “newest growth” on the tree, Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig-Lüneburg-Wolfenbüttel (1564-1613), the nineteen or twenty year-old son of the reigning duke. Work on the print commenced in 1582, when Herzog Julius summoned the blockcutter Georg Scharffenberg to Wolfenbüttel, and appointed him “Formschneider” at his court. Besides the impression here described, four other complete and three incomplete or fragmentary impressions can be located.
  • Schut (Cornelis), 1597-1655

    Antwerp, [the artist?], c. 1632-1654
    An album of prints of Cornelis Schut, apparently assembled and marketed by the printmaker himself. It contains ninety-eight plates that he had first sold individually, or in small sets, and has now imposed on forty-five sheets of paper of a uniform large size, with the smaller plates printed in groups of two, three, or four on a single sheet. Several comparable albums are known, with varying contents but similarities in the arrangement of the prints. They are evidence of burgeoning interest among collectors in acquiring the output of single artists, a taste that developed in the 1630s and quickly spread, soon guiding the commercial strategy of numerous printmakers, including Rembrandt.
  • Della Bella (Stefano), 1610-1664

    Paris, after 1656

    Six etchings, each circa 311 × 280 mm (platemarks). Individually framed by Paul Levi in walnut with gold edge (each 49 × 44.5 cm).

    A fine complete set of Stefano Della Bella’s “Sei grandi vedute”, dependent upon drawings the artist had made during visits to Rome in 1650-1656, engraved at Florence, and the matrices afterwards given to Israel Henriet for printing in Paris. The prints were heralded by Jombert as the most perfect among all the works executed by Della Bella after his residency in France, and they have been prized by collectors ever since, for their painterly style, topographical accuracy, and technical virtuosity.

  • Lutma (Jan II), 1624-1689

    Amsterdam, c. 1669-1681

    Four prints, executed in punch engraving, and touched with grey wash, each circa 300 × 220 mm, with slight margins, or trimmed along platemark (pen and ink borderline added at extreme edge of the sheets). Uniformly framed.

    The silversmith Jan (or Johannes) Lutma the Younger made about thirty prints, favouring an experimental method of printmaking where the copper plate is scored by a spiked wheel or roulette, in order to achieve tonal effects comparable to those of a wash drawing. The method, a variety of mezzotint, was difficult and seldom practiced except by goldsmiths and silversmiths accustomed to the use of punches. Around 1681 Lutma engraved a self-portrait, and portraits of his father and of two leading contemporary Dutch poets, P.C. Hooft (1581-1647) and Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), as “living classical busts”, a style popularized by Rubens. The four prints are similar in execution, scale and composition, and as such form a suite within the artist’s engraved oeuvre. They were afterwards extensively touched with grey wash, adding creases to the neck and deepening shadows, possibly by the printmaker himself.

  • Piranesi (Giovanni Battista), 1720-1778

    Rome, [Giovanni Bouchard?], c. 1750

    Set of four prints, in etching, engraving, drypoint, scratching, burnishing. Matching impressions from the second edition, first issue: “The Skeletons”, plate 395 × 555 mm, state 2 of five (Robison 21); “The Triumphal Arch”, plate 394 × 553 mm, state 1 of five (Robison 22); “The Tomb of Nero”, plate 392 × 554 mm, state 2 of six (Robison 23); “The Monumental Tablet”, plate 396 × 547 mm, state 2 of four (Robison 24). Sheet size of all prints 527 × 765 mm. In a set of gilt frames by Paul Levi (each 50 × 80 cm).

    The four Grotteschi are among the most important and inventive of Piranesi’s prints, combining elements of human, cultural, and architectural decay in contexts of deliberate ambiguity, both as to the nature of the objects in each image and their spatial relationships. These matching impressions of the second state were presented by Agnews in 1991 as “undoubtedly one of the finest and earliest sets remaining in private hands”.

  • Piazzetta (Giovanni Battista), 1682-1754

    Venice, c. 1754

    Two etchings, only states, platemarks 455 × 352 mm, 460 × 357 mm, on sheets uniformly 740 × 500 mm. Uniformly framed.

    Superb matching impressions of Pitteri's famous etched portrait of Piazzetta, probably made from a painted self-portrait shortly after the death of the artist (28 April 1754); and of Pitteri's etched portrait of himself, also modelled (according to the legend on the print) after a painting or oil sketch by Piazzetta, and presumably conceived around the same date. The two prints are often considered a pair, produced by Pitteri to commemorate his long and close collaboration with the artist. As neither print was issued within a set or suite, opportunities to obtain matching impressions are rare, especially impressions in superb state of preservation with full margins like those offered here.

  • Gmelin (Wilhelm Friedrich), 1760-1820

    Rome, 1846
    A panorama of Rome substantially dependent on drawings made by Gmelin from his own garden on the Aventine Hill. The left panel of the three-sheet panorama depicts the Tiber from the Porto di Ripa to the Ponte Palatino; the centre panel continues from the Tempio di Vesta to the Chiesa di Santa Anastasia; and the third from the Monte Palatino to the Terme di Caracalla. The principal sites depicted in each panel (51, 57, 35 respectively) are identified on an accompanying “Tavola di Aggiunta”.