Engraving with 2 tone blocks, state i
State i/ii: before the signature
State ii/ii: “micarino Fec.” in engraving
Two Nudes in a Landscape is based on Beccafumi's similarly sized red chalk preparatory drawing, in which the composition is reversed (22.4 × 15.8 cm, The Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, inv. 6). The artist conceived and executed the composition in a mixed technique of engraving printed in black over two tonal woodblocks in light and medium gray. Two Nudes is generally thought to be Beccafumi's first experiment with this technically innovative combination medium. The tone blocks resolve passages left blank in the engraving, such as the figures' musculature in the legs and arms as well as in the standing male's upper torso. The two tones also foreground these sculptural nudes against the receding planes of the landscape. The present impression is one of only three known examples printed with the tone blocks (the other two impressions are Fitzwilliam 23.K.3-32 and Marucelliana stampe vol. 70, n. 109). Sometime after these chiaroscuro impressions were issued, the inscription “micarino Fec.” was added to the bottom left corner of the engraved plate (the different states were identified by Hartley 1991). This second state of the engraving, only noted in impressions without the tone blocks, is among the most common surviving Beccafumi prints.
In the Library of Congress impression, the two gray tone blocks were printed wet onto dry ink, in moderately thin films. Both these inks are glossy, likely from being polished by the copperplate which was printed last. Analysis indicates that all three inks contain finely ground carbon black and lead white pigments, combined in different ratios to achieve the respective tones. In the related Three Male Nudes (ALU.1018.1), also a hybrid of engraving and woodcut, the inks are formulated similarly but with the addition of a small amount of iron oxide (brown) pigment, presumably to warm the hues (Stiber Morenus et al. 2015). The opacity of Beccafumi's tone block inks required the copperplate to be printed last, lest its fine detail be obscured.
As with woodcut, a good intaglio impression is printed on moist paper under considerable pressure, which enables the sheet to conform intimately to the copper-plate. The paper in Two Nudes in a Landscape was therefore moistened before printing each matrix.
In some areas of the design, the light tone block and copperplate are misaligned by a sixteenth of an inch, demonstrating that Beccafumi had not mastered the management of moisture in the paper for printing. When printing some impressions of large mixed-technique prints, including Three Male Nudes and Two Apostles (ALU.1018.1, ALU.1016.1), the paper was so unevenly dampened that it buckled in the press, causing printer's creases (Albertina DG2002/388 and GDSU 74 st. sc.). This evidence also illustrates the challenge of registering two types of printing matrices on platen and roller presses successively.
Printing intaglio lines onto a paper covered with a layer (or layers) of tone block ink posed an additional challenge in the marriage of engraving and woodcut. A sheet of paper coated with ink is thicker and less supple, and thus will resist being pushed into the inked engraved lines in a copperplate (especially under inadequate printing pressure). Moreover, its surface is less receptive to pulling the ink from these grooves. In the LoC impression, the black intaglio ink transferred incompletely from the plate onto the smooth, slick surface of the tone block inks, and the center of many engraved channels is missing. This printing flaw affected other works from Beccafumi's production in the combination medium, including Three Male Nudes (other impressions that exhibit this printing flaw are Two Apostles ALU.1016.1, Albertina DG2002/388 and GDSU 74 st. sc.; and Reclining Figures ALU.1021.1, Custodia inv. 1972-P.48 and Albertina DG2002/395. See E. Hinterding in Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Frits Lugt Collection in Paris 2005; and Lincoln 2000). The great difficulty of producing combination technique prints must account for the extreme rarity of impressions (in addition to Two Apostles and Reclining figures Beccafumi's combination technique prints are Three Male Nudes ALU.1018.1; Apostle in a Niche ALU.1015.1; and Saint Bartholomew, Passavant 6:149, n. 1, recorded only without a tone block, Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, PN 24272).
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. 166-167.
Other impressions with tone blocks of state i/ii:
-Marucelliana LXX, 109
Variant, engraving only, state ii/ii:
-BnF EA 26 fol
-Pinacoteca di Bologna
, "Beccafumi 'glum & gloomy'", Print Quarterly
, 1991, 418-425, pp. 418–425
, Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Frits Lugt Collection in Paris, Tokyo, 2005, p. 53, n. 34 (Hinterding E.)
, The invention of the Italian Renaissance printmaker
, 2010, pp. 60–61