Chiaroscuro woodcut from 4 blocks, light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black
Inscription in the darkest block
In 1518, Pope Leo X granted Ugo da Carpi privileges for the publication of his Aeneas and and Death of Ananias (ALU.0942.1). They are the earliest known protections for single-sheet prints in Rome, and were exceptional at the time; such privileges did not appear with any regularity until the late 1540s (Bury 2001). An inscription on the Aeneas and Anchises declares that the “author” of the image is the holder of both papal and Venetian privileges (it is assumed that the Venetian privilege refers to the one for which Ugo applied on July 24, 1516. This privilege, however, would have been nullified on August 1, 1517 when the Venetian Senate revoked all earlier privileges, as too many privileges had been granted to enforce. On the passing of this law, see Witcombe 2004). Although Raphael's name is featured first in the inscription, the “author” undoubtedly refers to Ugo, whose application to the Venetian Senate for a privilege in 1516 is documented (for an explanation of the wording of the privilege, see Pon 2004 and Griffiths 2018). Indeed, the printmaker went to great lengths to protect his investments, later obtaining a papal privilege for his woodcut calligraphy manual in 1525 (Operina di Ludovico Vicentino da imparare di scrivere littera cancellerescha, Rome, 1525).
Both Aeneas and Anchises and Death of Ananias are inscribed “apud Ugum de Carpi inpressam,” advertising Ugo's responsibility for printing and publishing the blocks in his shop. Not only did Ugo possess the executive skills and financial wherewithal to generate and issue his own work, but the similar ink formulation and quality of his Roman and Bolognese chiaroscuro woodcuts suggest that he closely supervised all aspects of the production process as well. The number of surviving lifetime impressions of Ugo's chiaroscuros indicates that he was printing in limited quantities (Six other impressions of Aeneas and Anchises are listed below. Other prints recorded in fewer than seven impressions include Saint Jerome, Hercules Chasing Avarice from the Temple of the Muses Version A, Hercules and the Nemean Lion, and Hercules and Antaeus). His was a small-scale production in contrast with the more substantial commercial publishing operation of il Baviera, which issued prints by the engravers working around Raphael. It is doubtful that Ugo was associated with the Roman publisher. Like their production methods, we can also assume that the channels of distribution for chiaroscuro woodcuts and intaglio prints were separate (Bury 2003).
Aeneas and Anchises is a rare chiaroscuro woodcut of which no late printings are known. The gray-black palette of MFA Boston 64.1089 is typical of all the recorded impressions. Very similar inks were also used to print the first state impressions of Death of Ananias, and the same Crossbow in a Circle Surmounted by a Star watermark appears in examples of both woodcuts (Aeneas and Anchises impressions with this watermark are BnF, Chatsworth, and Rijksmuseum. Death of Ananias with this watermark are BM 1852,0612.1 and Rijksmuseum RP-P-OB-31.031. I thank Shelley Langdale for the Rijksmuseum watermark information). Aeneas and Anchises and Death of Ananias represent Ugo's earliest use of a four-block technique. In Death of Ananias, the lightest blocks are applied as broad areas of color, while the darker two describe some outlines and deepen shadows. In contrast to his earlier prints, the presence of line is markedly diminished. In Aeneas and Anchises, linear elements are even further reduced; forms are described and modeled through the juxtaposition and superimposition of flat, contrasting planes of light and dark color. Notably, in neither print do we find a single line or tone block dominating the composition— instead, the images are created through a complex of interdependent block designs.
Anchises and Anchises, first mentioned by Vasari, features Aeneas as he leads his son, Ascanius, and carries his father, Anchises, to safety, while Troy burns in the background (“gli riuscì in modo anco questa, che condusse una carta, dove Enea porta addosso Anchise, mentre che arde Troia”; Vasari-Bettarini and Barocchi 1966–87. The story is recounted in Virgil's Aeneid, 2.707). The gures are cast against a night sky that is lit up by fire and filled with smoke, rendered as startlingly abstracted flat geometric areas of color. There are no preparatory drawings or finished works by Raphael relating directly to this woodcut, which reflects his debt to the antique (Joannides 2000; Oberhuber and Gnann 1999). It has been posited that the composition might follow a lost preliminary design for Raphael's Fire in the Borgo fresco in the Vatican, either by the master himself or perhaps one developed by Gianfrancesco Penni (Oberhuber 1966, Oberhuber and Gnann 1999. For an attribution to Penni, see Joannides 2015, 157).
Naoko Takahatake, The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June-September 2018, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C, October 2018-January 2019, DelMonico Books/Prestel, Munich-London-New York, 2018, pp. 89-90.
Other impressions (all printed in light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black):
-BnF Réserve EA 26 (I)-BOITE FOL (wmk: crossbow in a circle)
-Georg Baselitz collection (Gnann 2013,
p. 102, n. 35)
-Chatsworth vol. IV, fol. 59, no. 80 (wmk: crossbow in a circle)
-GDSU 62 st.sc.
-MMA 34.2: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/654289?
-Rijksmuseum RP-P-OB-31.054 (wmk: crossbow in a circle): http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.51336
-Albertina DG/2002304: https://www.graphikportal.org/document/gpo00080105
, New Haven, 2004 , pp. 81-82
, Los Angeles, 2018 , pp. 89-90, n. 17 (Takahatake N.), p. 89