Istituto di Storia dell'Arte / storiaartexilografie


definizione: stampa


identificazione: ERCOLE E IL LEONE DI NEMEA
titolo parallelo: Hercules and the Nemean Lion


tipo acquisizione: acquisto
nome: Colnaghi


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



primo stato


xilografia; chiaroscuro; mm 251 x 195 ca.
materia del supporto: carta






tipologia: indicazione di responsabilità
tecnica di scrittura: a stampa
tipo di caratteri: lettere capitali
trascrizione: RAPHA. VR./ IOS. NIC. VICEN.



Chiaroscuro woodcut from 2 blocks, lime/black , ia/ii state

state ia/ii: “RAPHA. VR./ IOS. NIC. VICEN.” in the line block; before damage to the lion's eye
state ib/ii: “RAPHA. VR./ IOS. NIC. VICEN.” in the line block; with damage to the lion's eye
state ii/ii: “RAPH.VR/AA”; eye of the lion plugged

Hercules and the Nemean Lion is the only two-block chiaroscuro woodcut signed by Niccolò Vicentino. The inscription at bottom left also credits Raphael as the inventor of the design. The subject of Hercules's first labor, depicted earlier by Ugo da Carpi (ALU.0947.1), found favor among artists in Raphael's circle, who may have taken inspiration from an ancient relief then in Palazzo della Valle in Rome (the relief is now in Villa Medici in Rome; see Oberhuber 1966). The figures are especially close to Giulio Romano's monochrome fresco in the Sala dei Cavalli in Palazzo Te executed between 1526 and 1528 (this was first noted in the 1860s by Passavant). In contrast to most of Vicentino's chiaroscuros, preliminary or model drawings for Hercules and the Nemean Lion are unknown. Pierre Jean Mariette surmised that the print is a composite of two sources, with the figures derived from a Raphael or school design and the landscape from a Venetian source (Mariette; Hinterding, in Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Frits Lugt Collection, suggested further that Vicentino may have elaborated his own design for the background; however, we have no evidence of his draftsmanship. Gnann 2013 has upheld an attribution of the entire composition to Raphael or his workshop). Indeed, the distinct handling of figures and background may reflect Vicentino's reliance on two different models. While he used a disciplined vocabulary of thin, evenly cut and systematically arranged lines to describe and internally model his figures, which is especially pronounced in the parallel hatching that shades Hercules's back and proper right leg, he employed more broadly cut, supple lines to convey a painterly quality for the wooded setting.
Vicentino fully developed the design of Hercules and the Nemean Lion in the line block and used the tone block for an overall mid-tone ground. He concentrated highlights in the figures and introduced them sparingly in the foreground. Because the linearity of the woodcut contrasts with Vicentino's predominantly tonal approach, this chiaroscuro has been considered his first work (See, for example, Hinterding in Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Frits Lugt Collection).
It seems to have been executed in close proximity to two other early prints by Vicentino after Roman designs, namely, his three-block Cloelia Fleeing the Camp of Porsena after Maturino da Firenze (ALU.0988.1) and his three-block Death of Ajax after Polidoro da Caravaggio (ALU.0989.1). The diversity of cutting techniques across the three prints differs from the more formulaic design distribution deployed in his later ones after Parmigianino's pen and wash drawings. All three prints are signed in a comparable manner that he did not repeat elsewhere.
This impression, in lime and black, is an early printing of the first state (state ia/ii), with Vicentino's signature and the lion's eye intact. In later impressions of the first state (state ib/ii), the eye of the lion is damaged and the letters in the inscriptions show some wear (see list below). There are line block-only variants of the furst state, printed both before and after the loss in the lion's eye. In the second state, published in the seventeenth century, Andrea Andreani excised Vicentino's name and replaced it with his own monogram. The publisher also plugged and recut the lion's eye.
Nicolò Boldrini borrowed Vicentino's figural composition in a chiaroscuro woodcut that can be dated to around the 1560s (ALU.0879.1). While he faithfully followed the outlines of Hercules and the lion, as well as the rear of the lion entering the cave, Boldrini elaborated his own expansive landscape. William Trotter suggested that he worked from a drawing that contained only the figures (Trotter 1974); however, it stands to reason that Boldrini, whose blocks were printed alongside some of Vicentino's, worked directly from an impression of this print.

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. 126-127.

Other impressions state ia/ii:

-V&A 26174: orange-brown/black
-BM 1874,0808.199: gray/black
-BM 1852,0612.3: verdigris/black
-MMA 1986.1180.247: light blue/black
-MMA 22.67.75: orange-brown/black
-Harvard G7494: light brown/black
-MFA 64.1101: light blue/black
-MFA 64.1102: lime/black
-Rothschild 4379: dark blue-grey/black
-Albertina DG 2002/317: verdigris/black[DG2002%2f317]&showtype=record
-RCIN 851846:
-Frankfurt 33883: lime/black
-BNE 4166: lime/black{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER
-Rijks RP-P-OB-31.162: gray/black

State ib/ii:

-Harvard M9923: light brown/black
-MMA 22.73.3-63: gray/black
-Berlin 465-38: yellow/black [check if ia or ib]
-EnsBA Est Mas: beige/black
-Frankfurt III.34: brown/black
-PMA 1985-52-2081: orange/black
-Albertina DG 2002/318: orange/black
-Rijks RP-P-OB-31.164: orange/black

Variant from line block only, state ia/ii:

-MFA P2915:
-Munich 4467

Variant from line block only, state ib/ii:

-BM 1874,0808.200:
-Albertina DG2002/316

State ii/ii (Andreani reprint):

-BM W,4.3: pale olive/black


tipologia: fotografia digitale
ente proprietario: New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art ©
note: Public Domain


Bartsch A., Le peintre graveur, Vienne, 1803-1821, v. XII, p. 119, n. 17
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, p. 83
Passavant J.D., Le peintre-graveur: contenant l'Histoire de la gravure sur bois, sur métal et au burin jusque vers la fin du XVI siècle [...], Paris, 1860-1864, v. VI, p. 221, n. 17


Oberhuber K., Renaissance in Italien. 16 Jahrhundert Werke aus dem Besitz der Albertina. Die Kunst der Graphik 3, Wien, 1966, p. 129, n. 195
Trotter W.H., Chiaroscuro woodcuts of the circles of Raphael and Parmigianino a study in reproductive graphics, The Univ. of North Carolina, 1974, pp. 96–97
, Chiaroscuro woodcuts from the Frits Lugt Collection in Paris, Tokyo, 2005, p. 48, n. 25 (Hinterding E.)
Gnann A., In Farbe! Clair-obscur-Holzschnitte der Renaissance - Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Georg Baselitz und der Albertina in Wien, Monaco, 2013, p. 204, n. 94
Takahatake N., The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy, Los Angeles, 2018, pp. 126-127, n. 39 (Takahatake N.), p. 126, n. 39


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


Takahatake N., 2020
Takahatake N., Atlante delle xilografie italiane del Rinascimento, ALU.0991.1,
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