Chiaroscuro woodcut from 3 blocks, gray/blue-gray/black
This print has perhaps the most confused history of any chiaroscuro woodcut of the second, Parmigianesque generation. Well known as a subject, it was long assumed to be another design by Parmigianino. In fact, the rhythmic flow of the composition, the characteristic stylization of the types, and the unmistakable references to his celebrated Madonna of Saint Margaret of 1528–29 practically beg the identification. Welcomed as corroborating evidence, the woodcut bears the monogram FP. Hardly surprising, the design is attributed to Parmigianino himself in the essential repertory catalogues and most studies to this day, as well as in the collection records of many major institutions.
Popham connected the print with an oil sketch in the Uffizi and suggested an attribution to Camillo Boccaccino (Popham 1971). Since then, Giulio Bora principally has identified a series of drawings and explained their relationship to an altarpiece commissioned in 1533 by the Busti family for their altar in Cremona's cathedral (Bora in I Campi e la cultura artistica cremonese del Cinquecento, with preceding bibliography; Bora and Zlatohlávek 1997). Boccaccino, the fundamental figure of an important school in sixteenth-century Cremona, created his own hybrid out of the most advanced styles in Northern Italian painting, starting with the local works of Giovanni Antonio Pordenone and Girolamo Romanino, adding the experience of a period in Titian's workshop, and above all assimilating the lessons of Parmigianino's works after he had settled in nearby Parma. Boccaccino's most prestigious project to that date, the so-called Saint Martha Altarpiece, would have demonstrated, beyond reverence for Parmigianino, a thorough grasp and further application of the essential terms of his style. The realization of the project, however, was protracted and apparently fraught. The painting remained in Boccaccino's possession at his death, and all trace of it was lost. There survive the many preparatory studies, from vague primi pensieri (early sketches) to lyrical individual figures, and the Uffizi's bozzetto, their subtle variations confirming a restless inventiveness, their language expressing extraordinary refinement. Like Vicentino's woodcut, these studies have often been mistaken for the work of Parmigianino himself or, even more understandably, the similar hybrid of Andrea Schiavone.
The proper identification of Vicentino's source has some broader implications. Parmigianesque to the point of deceiving, the print is the near-exception that proves the rule of Vicentino's subscription to the master's designs. This, along with the false monogram like that on a series of etchings by Master FP, confirm the prestige of Parmigianino's style and the existence of a market for works pretending its appearance. The monogram also suggests that while Vicentino could have had earlier access to a developed compositional study, the print was issued after Boccaccino's demise—a useful point of reference in Vicentino's scant chronology. The oil sketch in the Uffizi introduces other possibilities. It is virtually identical to the woodcut down to small detail and, allowing for abbreviation at the sides of the print, very close in dimensions. Similar in scale and finish to Parmigianino's oil sketch of the Entombment of Christ, which is generally accepted as the model for his etching of the subject, the Uffizi's could well have served as Vicentino's model. Not least, Vicentino's chiaroscuro underscores the close relationship between Cremonese art and Parmigianino, inaugurating a short period of intense interest in the technique. Indeed, if this print's execution followed Boccaccino's death, it would coincide with the moment of Antonio Campi's own thrall with Parmigianino and organization of a series of chiaroscuros.
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. 148-149.
Other Vicentino workshop impressions:
-BM W,4.69: gray/blue-gray/black https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_W-4-69
-PMA 1985-52-2080: mustard/ocher/black https://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/30054.html?mulR=1508186531|15
-Albertina DG1139: gray/blue-gray/black https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=25b9a475-fa41-44ae-8da4-97acc9d4342e
-Albertina DG2002/433: light brown/blue-gray/black (very damaged) https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=75ab2b5d-e45a-4e98-9d77-32d9c278f196
-Albertina DG2014/98: mustard/ocher/black https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=9a2e1714-78f5-4eb6-8410-d8ecd25df413
-Albertina DG2002/432: verdigris palette (olive/dark olive/black) https://sammlungenonline.albertina.at/m?queryid=5d2b8868-f1f9-44f8-b044-8f0af628ffdb
-Munich 12129: mustard/olive-brown/black
-Berlin 44-1882: gray-beige/gray/black
-Berlin 570-1895: gray-beige/blue/dark blue
-BnF BD 5 Mazzuoli: verdigris palette
-BnF EA 26 Boite: mustard/ocher/black
-Budapest 6269: http://printsanddrawings.hu/search/prints/6269/
-Chatsworth vol. IV, fol. 25, no. 35: verdigris palette
-Harvard M9920: verdigris greens/black https://hvrd.art/o/261784
-Marucelliana XXV, 109: gray/blue-gray/black
-MFA 64.1047: mustard/brown/black https://collections.mfa.org/objects/168257/the-holy-family-surrounded-by-saints
-NGA 1976.45.5: mustard/brown/black https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.55838.html
-Baselitz (Gnann no. 101): verdigris palette
, Catalogue of the drawings of Parmigianino
, New Haven, 1971, v. 1, p. 13
, I Campi e la cultura artistica cremonese del Cinquecento, Milano, 1985, pp. 276–277, nn. 2.5.4-5 (Bora G.)
, I segni dell'arte. Il Cinquecento da Praga a Cremona, Cremona, 1997, pp. 185–187, nn. 27–29