definition: stampa


identification: PESCA MIRACOLOSA
: Miraculous Draught of Fishes


Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of W. G. Russell Allen, Europe, Prints and Drawings


type of acquisition: donazione
first name: W.G. Russell Allen
Boston, 1964


data uscita: 1964


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



primo stato


xilografia; chiaroscuro; mm 233 x 344 ca.
medium material: carta








Chiaroscuro woodcut from 3 blocks, green/dark green/black, i state

state i/iii: before Andreani's address
state ii/iii: height of the composition increased by approximately
one centimeter at the top; inscription “RAPHEL VRB/ INVEN/ AA/ In Mantoua/ 1609.”added in the line block with a plug
state ii/iii: addition highlights cut from the light tone block in the sky; far edge of Christ's boat completed with plug in the mid-tone block

Windsor RCIN 912749 is a preliminary study for one of ten cartoons for the Acts of the Apostles tapestry series, which Pope Leo X commissioned from Raphael for the Sistine Chapel. Variably ascribed to Raphael or his principal assistant, Gianfrancesco Penni (for a discussion of the attribution, see Clayton 1999, no. 25, pp. 99–103), the drawing illustrates the miracle by which Peter, John, and James were called into service. As recounted in the Gospel of Luke (5:1–10), Christ urged the shermen to cast out their nets again after a night of fruitless labor. They followed his instruction and suddenly found their nets so full and heavy that their boats began to sink.

Although the date of the tapestry commission is not known, Raphael received the first of two documented payments by mid-1515. Windsor RCIN 912749 is dated around 1514. It is executed in pen over a black chalk underdrawing with a combination of broad and finely applied washes that give depth to the composition and volume to the figures. The addition of white bodycolor softly illuminates the scene. The drawing was a ready model for a three-block chiaroscuro woodcut: the light tone block and its white highlight reserves approximate the pale wash of the paper as well as the fine applications of white heightening; the second block describes the pen drawing and mid-tone washes; and the third block expresses the dark wash, as in the stern of Christ's boat or the upper thigh of the reclining oarsman. According to Martin Clayton, an overlay of the drawing and woodcut designs confirms the matching sizes and contours of the foreground composition. However, the drawing is free of direct transfer marks, indicating the use of some mechanically derived intermediate drawing as a modello for the print (Clayton 1999, n. 25, p. 102). The print departs from the drawing in the background, elaborating more fully the summarily sketched landscape.

Much of the modern literature has supported Bartsch's attribution of the Miraculous Draught of Fishes to Ugo da Carpi on the grounds of both his style and his connection to Raphael's circle (Sassi in Ugo da Carpi 2009; Gnann 2013; Joannides 2015 and earlier bibliography); however, Jan Johnson excluded it from her catalogue of Ugo's oeuvre (Johnson 1982). A more recent proposal, based on cutting technique, printing inks, and block history, points to an attribution to Niccolò Vicentino.5 The distribution of the design over three blocks in the Miraculous Draught is analogous to the method Vicentino employed in such signed works as Christ Healing the Lepers: the light tone block establishes the ground with highlights concentrated in the principal figures and foreground, the second block carries the main outlines of the entire composition, and the darkest block reinforces contours and areas of deep shadow. In both prints, the darkest block is limited to the foreground and efficiently establishes atmospheric perspective.
Using relatively simple means when compared to Ugo's more varied and complex technique, Vicentino developed this repeatable three-block design strategy to emulate the general character of pen and wash drawings. The material facts of Miraculous Draught impressions further support an attribution to Vicentino's workshop. MFA 64.1035 is exemplary of the shop's output in its use of opaque inks prepared from coarsely ground pigment particles, as well as in its printing in thick and slightly irregular layers. Vicentino may have addressed the challenge of transferring such viscous ink from the block to the paper by soft-packing the platen of the press. The haphazard vertical and diagonal markings that run across the center of the sky were probably produced from creases in the thick paper placed in the tympan that would help the printing sheet conform better to the inked surface of the block.

The opacity of Vicentino's inks precludes the nuanced tonal transitions Ugo achieved using thin layers of re ned translucent inks. Further, the Vicentino workshop preferred ink colors that are more richly saturated and less harmonious in their hues and values than the ones found in early impressions of Ugo's three- and four-block prints. The ink colors and quality of MFA 64.1035 result in a compositional fragmentation, an effect heightened by the use of black rather than a deep green to print the darkest block.
The Miraculous Draught is one of four similarly executed and unsigned chiaroscuro woodcuts after drawings in pen and wash ascribed variably to Raphael and Gianfrancesco Penni, which were preparatory for pictorial schemes by Raphael. The others are Dream of Jacob (ALU.0990.1), Joshua Addressing the Israelites (B.XII.77.25), and Resurrection (ALU.0997.1), which relate to fresco decorations in the Vatican Loggias (Matile 2003; Takahatake 2011). These prints, which share an attribution history with the Miraculous Draught, can also be tied to Vicentino's workshop based on their analogous technique, materials, and publishing evidence. How the chiaroscurist gained access to these designs, however, remains unresolved.

The Miraculous Draught counts among the most successful of Vicentino's compositions, and was issued in a variety of colors, including brick-red, dark teal, verdigris, ochre, and lime and green palettes (see further Stiber Morenus 2015 and Johnson 2015). As is typical of Vicentino's stock, the blocks were subsequently reprinted by the Ladder in a Shield Printer, the Printer of Greek Text, and Andrea Andreani (see list below). Crucially, these printers did not reprint any of Ugo's signed blocks.
In Andreani's hands, the Miraculous Draught underwent two state changes: first, the Mantuan publisher extended the height of the light tone block by approximately one centimeter at the top and added a plug with the inscription “RAPHEL VRB/ INVEN/ AA/ In Mantoua/ 1609.” In the final state, Andreani cut highlights from the light tone block in order to integrate artfully and thus dissimulate a horizontal break that had damaged it. He also completed the far edge of Christ's boat. The inclusion of Raphael's name in these later states was, presumably, meant to encourage potential buyers, testifying to the enduring appreciation of the master's designs into the seventeenth century.

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.128-130.

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. 128-130.

Other impressions state i/ii:

-Rijksmuseum 31.019: verdigris/dark verdigris/black
-Rijksmuseum 31.016: green/dark green/ black
-BNE 41165: light blue/dark blue/black http://catalogo.bne.es/uhtbin/cgisirsi/?ps=u3f28z69Ud/BNMADRID/318170766/9
-Braunschweig UdCarpi V 3.895: brick red/brown/black http://kk.haum-bs.de/?id=carpi-u-d-v3-0895
-Budapest 6137: green/dark green/ black http://printsanddrawings.hu/search/prints/6137/
-Chatsworth vol. IV, fol. 9, no. 12: light brown/brown/black
-Harvard M9800: brown-gray/gray/blackhttps://hvrd.art/o/253941
-MFA 64.1034: light blue/blue/black https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168198/the-miraculous-draught-of-fishes
-MFA 64.1036: verdigris/dark verdigris/black https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168213/the-miraculous-draught-of-fishes
-Rothschild 4386: lime green/green/black
-Uffizi 92104: verdigris/dark verdigris/black
-Windsor 853019: ocher/brown/black https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/5/collection/853019/the-miraculous-draught-of-fishes
-Albertina DG2002/282: red/brown/black https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=afe1c4b2-eb95-4261-9d84-2d04e03176cf
-Berlin 303-38: verdigris greens/black
-Berlin 979-64: lime/green/black
-Long Collection (Barryte 105): ocher/brown/black https://cantorcollection.stanford.edu/objects-1/info?query=mfs%20all%20%22raphael%20fishes%22&sort=0

State ii/ii issued by Ladder in a Shield Printer in light brown/brown/black:

-BM 1941,1213.534: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1941-1213-534
-BnF Réserve EA 39
-Portland Museum of Art, 2007.76.1.
-Albertina DG2002/281Z: https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=8d8c092d-c050-4da4-908b-5baae6225dd3

State i/ii issued by the Printer of Greek Text in orange/brown/black:

-MMA 22.67.39: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/632772
-Munich 4162

State ii/iii issued by Andreani (1609):
See MMA 23.108.11 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/632774

State iii/iii issued by Andreani (1609):
See MMA 2018.839.146 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/390355


type of material: fotografia digitale
ente proprietario: Boston, Museum of Fine Arts ©


Bartsch A., Le peintre graveur, Vienne, 1803-1821, v. XII, p. 37, n. 1


Johnson J., "I chiaroscuri di Ugo da Carpi", in Print Collector - Il conoscitore di stampe, Milano, 1982
Clayton M., Raphael and his circle, London, 1999, pp. 99–103, n. 25
Matile M., Italienische Holzschnitte der Renaissance und des Barock, Basel, 2003, p. 124, n. 49
, Ugo da Carpi. L'opera incisa. Xilografie e chiaroscuri da Tiziano, Raffaello e Parmigianino, Carpi, 2009, pp. 142–143, n. 26 (Sassi R.)
Takahatake N., "Niccolò Vicentino's Miraculous Draught of Fishes", in Print Quarterly, London, 2011, XVIII, 2011, 3, pp. 256-260, pp. 256–260
Gnann A., In Farbe! Clair-obscur-Holzschnitte der Renaissance - Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Georg Baselitz und der Albertina in Wien, Monaco, 2013, pp. 120–121, nn. 44–45
Joannides P., "Drawings by Raphael and his immediate followers made for or employed for engravings and chiaroscuro woodcuts", Raffael als Zeichner. Die Beiträge des Frankfurter Kolloquiums, 2015, pp. 149-166, p. 157
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. 134–135, table 11.1
Johnson J., "Linking chiaroscuro woodcuts through physical features", Myth, Allegory and Faith. The Kirk Edward Long Collection of Mannerist Prints, Cinisello Balsamo, 2015, pp. 137-159, pp. 153–156
Takahatake N., The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy, Los Angeles, 2018, pp. 128-130 (Takahatake N.), p. 129, n. 41 


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.0993.1, https://archivi.cini.it/storiaarte/detail/49320/stampa-49320.html, ISBN 978-88-96445-24-2
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