Istituto di Storia dell'Arte / Atlante delle Xilografie italiane del Rinascimento


definizione: stampa


titolo parallelo: Circe Giving Drink


Washington D.C., Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division



sec. XVI, secondo quarto
1540 ca. - 1549 ca.



Niccolò Vicentino, 1510 ca./ post 1566 (bottega)


primo stato


xilografia; chiaroscuro; mm 230 x 212 ca.
materia del supporto: carta








Chiaroscuro woodcut from 2 blocks, medium brown/black, first state

State i/ii: before Andreani’s address

State ii/ii: “AA in Mantova 1602” added to the line block with a plug

In his “Notes manuscrites,” Pierre Jean Mariette tentatively ascribed Circe Giving Drink to Antonio da Trento (Mariette, vol. 2, fol. 86). While followed by many, some doubts nonetheless surround this attribution. The print’s fine linear treatment agrees with Antonio’s approach. For example, the dense line work and tightly hatched reserves of Circe Giving Drink find a parallel in Antonio’s Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist. However, the hardness of contours and regularity of hatchings distinguish it from his acknowledged two-block woodcuts made under Parmigianino’s eye. While conveying the elegance of Parmigianino’s design, Circe Giving Drink lacks the fluency of the draftsman’s calligraphic line captured in such prints as Nude Man Seen from Behind and Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl. If the attribution of Circe Giving Drink to Antonio is accepted, his dependence on a drawing without the benefit of Parmigianino’s active participation may well explain its different character (Popham 1971 dates the drawing to Parmigianino’s Bolognese period). The two-block Circe Giving Drink applies the graphic formulae of printmaking to translate Parmigianino’s meticulously rendered pen and ink drawing with two tones of brown wash, heightened with white, now in Florence. To match the different opacities and tones of the washes, the blockcutter used parallel lines of varied densities and cross-hatching. He also changed the direction of the hatching in order to set apart the passages of shade. Furthermore, the individual lines vary in thickness, the subtlety of which can only be appreciated in such early impressions as the present one. With wear, the finer lines soon broadened, acquiring a uniform appearance.

Parmigianino’s drawing of Circe Giving Drink, like his Circe Drinking to which it closely relates, may have been among the works Antonio allegedly stole. Although we have no record of Antonio’s activity after he ended his collaboration with Parmigianino, some prints attributed to him, including Circe Giving Drink, display inks and printing procedures consonant with Niccolò Vicentino’s workshop output. LoC FP-XVI-A635, no. 59 (A size) is printed in medium brown ochre (iron earth) and carbon black inks of differing consistencies (iron earths are naturally occurring minerals containing clay and iron oxide; for instrumental analysis of these inks, see Stiber Morenus et al. 2015). The viscous tone block ink was lightly applied, producing a reticulated but spare lm in which the laid paper texture from the wire (or screen) side of the sheet is visible. The more liquid black ink was generously applied to the line block, which was printed with sufficient pressure to cause channeled squash; as a result many of the interstices between the tightly hatched lines are lled in with ink. Moreover, the moist paper sagged and made contact with the cleared areas of the line block, accidentally printing these reserves. Other impressions of Circe Giving Drink similarly display Vicentino’s workshop characteristics, including the use of “signature” ink palettes of beige (lead white; MMA 28.15.5 and possibly BNE INVENT/41179), verdigris (Rothschild 31807 LR and Escorial 28-1-19 fol. 108), and lime (Budapest 6203 and Städel 33956), to name but a few. The blocks were also reprinted in a second state by Andrea Andreani who added his publisher’s address, “AA in Mantova 1602,” by means of a plug. Andreani’s reprints expose the insertion of a square plug in the cloud at upper left to compensate for a small loss in the line block.

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. 144-145.

Other impressions of state i/ii:

-MMA 22.73.3-43: lead white/brown

-BNE INVENT/41179: possibly lead white/black

-Rothschild 31807 LR: vedrigris/black

-Escorial 28-1-19 fol. 108: vedrigris/black

-Budapest 6203: lime/black

-Städel 33956: lime/black

-Achenbach (Fine Arts Museum San Francisco) 1986.1.335: mustard/black

-BM 1868,0612.15: lavender/black

-BM 1860,0414.109: light brown/black

-Munich 12136: blue-gray/black

-Ashmolean WA 1863.3934: light brown/dark brown

-BnF Réserve EA 39: gray-brown/black

-Chatsworth vol. IV, fol. 82: brown/black

-MFA 64.1094: light brown/black

-MFA P1708: blue-green/black

-MMA 28.15.5: green/black

-Baselitz (Gnann, no. 75) orange/black -Baselitz (Gnann, no. 76): green/black

-Kirk Edward Long Collection, L.2318

Impression of state ii/ii, issued by Andreani:

-BM W,4.83

-Kirk Edward Long Collection, L.15.151.2007 


tipologia: fotografia digitale
ente proprietario: Washington, Library of Congress ©


Bartsch A., Le peintre graveur, Vienne, 1803-1821, v. XII, p. 110, n. 6


Mariette P.J., Abecedario de P. J. Mariette et autres notes inédites de cet amateur sur les arts et les artistes, Paris, 1853-1860, v. 2, fol. 86
Popham A.E., Catalogue of the drawings of Parmigianino, New Haven, 1971, vol. 1, p. 66, n. 73
Stiber Morenus L./ Eng C.W./ Takahatake N./ Rambaldi D.C., "Sixteenth -and Seventeenth- Century Italian Chiaroscuro Woodcut: Instrumental Analysis, Degradation and Conservation", in Journal of the American Institute of Conservation, 2015, pp. 238-271, pp. 243, 246
Stiber Morenus L., "The chiaroscuro woodcut printmaking of Ugo da Carpi, Antonio da Trento and Niccolò Vicentino: technique in relation to artistic style", Printing colour 1400 - 1700, Leiden, 2015, 123-139, pp. 124–30
Takahatake N., The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy, Los Angeles, 2018, pp. 144-145 (Stiber Morenus L./ Takahatake N.), p. 144


Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA., June - September 2018 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., October 2018 - January 2019, 2018-2019


Stiber Morenus L./ Takahatake N., 2020
Stiber Morenus L./ Takahatake N., Atlante delle xilografie italiane del Rinascimento, ALU.0963.1,


Battagliotti L., 2023
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