Chiaroscuro woodcut from 4 blocks, light violet/medium violet/dark violet/black
Christ Healing the Paralytic relates to a now-lost fresco by Perino del Vaga (1501–1547), formerly in the Massimi Chapel in the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, Rome (the fresco is mentioned by Vasari, see Vasari-Bettarini and Barocchi. See Trotter 1974, Gere 1960 and Gnann 2013). There is a preparatory study of the foreground figures of Christ gesturing the lame man forward, accompanied by disciples, in pen and brown ink with brown wash, which is in reverse of the woodcut (BM 1946,0713.568, https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1946-0713-568). Though some have attributed this unsigned print to Ugo da Carpi, Perino's composition dates to 1538–39, several years after the chiaroscurist's death in 1532. The cutting style and printing technique of Christ Healing the Paralytic are typical of the signed works of Niccolò Vicentino (including Christ Healing the Lepers), to whom it now generally is ascribed.
The four blocks in this impression are printed in light, medium, and dark violets and black. The darkest violet ink has a slight gloss, while the other inks are matte and appear desiccated, probably from a low binder-to-pigment ratio. The opaque, once viscous violet inks are composed of very coarsely ground pigments, likely comprised of hematite red, lead white, and organic red pigments (these colorants were identified in ths impression by Russell 2013). In two other impressions of Christ Healing the Paralytic that appear to have been printed in the same inks, the medium and dark violets have discolored yellow-brown when compared to the present sheet, presumably because of the instability of the organic red pigments (MFA 64.1037 and Davison Art Center, 1992.26.1. The darkest block in the Davison impression is printed in a very dark violet, not black. In all three Christ Healing the Paralytic impressions, the blocks were generously inked and printed with considerable pressure, which has caused pronounced channeled squash and some spreading of ink beyond the forms of the blocks). During the early sixteenth century, Italian painters used organic red lake pigments prepared from brazilwood and scale insects (kermes, cochineal, and lac. See Kirby and White 1996 on the use of red lake pigments prepared from scale insect dyestuffs in Italy. Painters working in Northern Europe tended to use dyestuffs prepared from madder). When bound in linseed oil, these red lake pigments fade in daylight and increase in yellowness during fading.
The merged appearance of the black and darkest violet inks indicate that the darkest block was printed before the preceding layer of ink was dry. Furthermore, the verso bears offsets of both black and violet inks from having been stacked on top of another completed impression before the two inks had dried. While such ink offsets are common on the versos of Vicentino's woodcuts, maculatures can also, if less frequently, be found (a maculature is an impression pulled to clean the matrix of residual ink, sometimes using soda ash and water, oil, turpentine, wine, or other solvent). For example, the verso of this impression has oily maculatures of both the line and tone blocks of Choleric Temperament, a three-block chiaroscuro tentatively ascribed to Antonio da Trento by Bartsch (ALU.1030.1, Johnson 2015). If we accept this attribution, the maculature of Choleric Temperament on the verso of Christ Healing the Paralytic further supports the proposal that blocks by Vicentino and Antonio were printed in the same shop, at least for a time.
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. 155-156.
Other Vicentino workshop impressions:
-Davison Art Center 1992.26.1: four violets http://dac-collection.wesleyan.edu/Obj1604
-MFA 64.1037: light violet/medium violet/dark violet/black https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168215/christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-the-pool-of-bethesda
-Berlin 950-301: light brown/brown/blue/black (wmk anchor in a circle)
-Windsor: white/blues (wmk anchor in a circle)
-RCIN 830786 https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/10/collection/830786/christ-healing-a-leper
-MFA 64.1038 : light brown/brown/blue/black (wmk anchor in a circle) https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168219/christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-the-pool-of-bethesda
-LoC FP - XVI - V633, no. 2 (A size): verdigris inks/black https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008678926/
-Private collection, Venice: verdigris inks/black
-Berlin 450-38:light brown/blue/dark blue (NB: missing darkest block)
-BnF EA 26 boîte: light brown/brown/dark brown/black
-Frankfurt 333946: verdigris inks/black
-Frankfurt: light brown/blue/dark blue/black
-MFA 64.1039: verdigris/black https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168222/christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-the-pool-of-bethesda
-MMA 22.73.3-26: leade white palette https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/633161
-Munich: lime/green/dark green/black
-Rothschild 4392: yellow/browns/black http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr/detail/oeuvres/1/519489-Jesus-guerissant-un-paralytique
-Windsor: yellow/yellow-brown/blue/dark blue
-Albertina DG 2002/423: light brown/brown/blue/dark blue
-Albertina DG 2002/424: grays https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=cb29de09-6582-46c8-a4c1-c456db959e7d
-Albertina DG2002/425: verdigris inks/black https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=0e02155d-d99a-409a-9dc0-efa77c621ee0
, "Two late fresco cycles by Perino del Vaga the Massimi Chapel and the Sala Paolina", The Burlington magazine
, 1960, pp. 9-19, pp. 10, 13–14
, Chiaroscuro woodcuts of the circles of Raphael and Parmigianino a study in reproductive graphics
, The Univ. of North Carolina, 1974, pp. 150–152
Kirby J./ White R.
, "The Identification of Red Lake Pigment Dyestuffs and a discussion of Their Use", National Gallery Technical Bulletin
, 1996, pp. 56-80, pp. 64–65
, In Farbe! Clair-obscur-Holzschnitte der Renaissance - Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Georg Baselitz und der Albertina in Wien
, Monaco, 2013, p. 232
, "The Analysis of Inks on Seven Italian Chiaroscuro Woodcut Prints", Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, 2013, unpublished
, "Linking chiaroscuro woodcuts through physical features", Myth, Allegory and Faith. The Kirk Edward Long Collection of Mannerist Prints
, Cinisello Balsamo, 2015, pp. 137-159, p. 156