Italian (Bologna 1557 - 1602 Parma)
B. 23; DeGrazia Bohlin 147, left and right plates only state, center plate ii/ii with letters, 1589
Signed and inscribed in the plate 1
Overall: 20 3/16 x 47 7/16 in. (51.3 x 120.5 cm) 2
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1991
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This large engraving, printed from three separate plates onto three sheets of paper, is Agostino Carracci's most elaborate print. It is a complex and faithful graphic interpretation of Tintoretto's monumental mural at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice. 3
Agostino traveled from his native Bologna to Venice several times during the 1580s, possibly as early as 1580, and definitely in 1582, when he engraved and published The Temptation of Saint Anthony, after Tintoretto (1518-1594); six prints after paintings by Veronese (ca. 1528-1588); and The Martyrdom of Saint Justina of Padua, after his own design. He may have returned to Venice in 1585 (the date on another engraving after Veronese), but was certainly there again in 1587, when he published his well-known engraving after Titian's self-portrait. 4
The Oberlin print was engraved on yet another Venetian trip in 1588-89, 5 a time when Agostino was apparently most interested in the work of Tintoretto. Besides the Crucifixion, he also made prints after Tintoretto's Madonna Appearing to Saint Jerome (Accademia), and two of his paintings in the Palazzo Ducale, Mars Driven Away from Peace and Abundance by Minerva and Mercury and the Three Graces, during this trip.
Agostino's Crucifixion is one of many Counter-Reformation prints intended to serve as devotional images in the home. As a reproductive print, it also represents Agostino's efforts to copy and disseminate an important contemporary painting, and thus remains faithful to Tintoretto's composition. Despite minor differences in the treatment of the sky and distant mountains, and the somewhat chunkier figural morphology characteristic of Agostino, almost all figures, animals, and symbolic details are positioned, posed, and draped precisely as in the original painting. 6
In the lighting, however, there are major differences between painting and print. While Agostino followed Tintoretto's use of highlights, midtones, and shadows closely in the central plate of the image, on the side plates he incorporated additional light sources that crisply illuminate each figure and detail. The resulting clarity renders the purely linear work more readable, episode by episode, from left to right. 7
The faithfulness of Agostino's print to Tintoretto's original painting was much praised throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries: 8
Ridolfi : But we shall not stop unnecessarily to praise this great and excellent endeavor [Tintoretto's painting]: it would be like holding up a light to the sun, since everybody knows this painting through the excellent print by Agostino Carraccio [sic] from which it is easy to see the beauty of the painting. It is said that when Carraccio gave a copy of the print to Tintoretto, the latter was so favorably impressed that he embraced Carraccio with great affection and greatly praised him. 9
Boschini : It is certain that it is so well done that it conveys the wonder of the original; and when he showed it to Tintoretto, he told him: Augustin, you matched me. 10
Bellori : It is said that when Tintoretto saw the print of his Crucifixion...he was so pleased with it that he embraced Agostino. Since Agostino had just had a son in Venice, Tintoretto decided to make the ties between them closer and was the godfather to the child, who was Antonio Carracci. 11
Malvasia  introduced a new episode in the story: [when Agostino asked Tintoretto to allow him to] ...reproduce some figures barefoot, even though they were wearing shoes in the original, and this just because he wanted to practice the engraving of those difficult extremities. 12
Zanetti  disproved Malvasia's narrative: It is thought that Agostino asked Tintoretto for permission to reproduce some of the feet bare, which had been painted with shoes by Tintoretto, and other similar things. All this has been shows to be false, since the print has been carefully compared with the original and found very similar.... 13
All later authors concur with Zanetti's assessment.
Agostino's Crucifixion was published in Venice by the print shop of Donato Rasicotti, 14 whose address appears on seven prints by Agostino. 15 Boschini (1660, as above) noted that, because so many prints had been taken from the plates, Daniel Nils took them to Flanders and had them gilt. 16
The great popularity of Agostino's print created a market for two early copies. The first was engraved, in reverse, in the early seventeenth century by Egidius Sadeler (1570-1629). 17 Another copy, also in reverse, was published, and possibly engraved, by Francesco Valegio (active in Venice about 1611-43). 18 A nineteenth-century copy by Agostino Capelli testifies to the enduring popularity of Agostino's print. 19
There are no known preparatory drawings for or preliminary states of this print.
J. S. Wilker
Agostino Carracci was born in Bologna on 16 August 1557, the cousin of Lodovico Carracci (1555-1619) and older brother of Annibale Carracci. Together the three artists affected the future course of painting in Italy, and in the case of Agostino, whose primary activity was engraving, the development of printmaking. Agostino started his career as a goldsmith, and apprenticed briefly with Prospero Fontana (1512-1597) and with Bartolomeo Passarotti (1529-1592) in 1577. Engraving prints as early as 1574, Agostino entered the studio of the engraver Domenico Tibaldi (1541-1583) in 1578 or 1579. Here Agostino learned a new system of engraving, which made use of swelling and tapering lines, probably by copying the innovative prints of Cornelis Cort.
In 1582 Lodovico, Agostino, and Annibale founded the Accademia degli Incamminati, an art school that emphasized intellectual thought, the study of anatomy, life drawing, and drawing and engraving prints after other works of art. Seeking firsthand knowledge of aesthetic innovations around Italy, the three Carraccis traveled frequently. During the 1580s Agostino made several trips to Venice and Parma, making prints after paintings by Veronese, Tintoretto, Titian, and Correggio, among others.
The effect of these Venetian trips is also apparent in his frescoes in the Palazzo Fava (Bologna, completed 1584), and in the Palazzo Magnani (Bologna, completed in 1592). While these frescoes were part of collaborations with Annibale and Lodovico, Agostino also produced several independent paintings, most notably the Last Communion of Saint Jerome (ca. 1589; Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale).
Agostino continued to paint and engrave prints in Bologna and Parma until about 1598, when he joined Annibale in Rome and contributed to the frescoes in the Grand Gallery in the Palazzo Farnese. In 1600 Agostino returned to Parma, where he died on 23 February 1602.
Nicknamed the "Italian Goltzius," Agostino Carracci was extremely popular in his day. He produced over two hundred prints: reproductive prints, original prints with religious or mythological subjects, coats of arms, portrait prints, and book illustrations. His teaching and his prints influenced many artists working in Bologna, Rome, and elsewhere.
Ostrow, Stephen. "Agostino Carracci." Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1966.
Bohlin, Diane DeGrazia. Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A
Catalogue Raisonné. Exh.cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979.
Benati, Daniele. "Agostino Carracci." In The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., pp. 255-56.
This imression: None.
Selected Catalogues (mentioning print but not this impression)
Bartsch, Adam. Le Peintre graveur. Vol. 18. Vienna, 1820-21. B. 23.
Andresen, Andreas. Handbuch für Kupferstichsammler. Vol. 1. Leipzig, 1870. Cat. no. 4.
Calvesi, Maurizio, and Vittorio Casale. Le Incisioni dei Carracci. Rome, 1965. Cat. no. 37.
Ostrow, Stephen. Agostino Carracci. Ph.D. diss., New York University, 1966. Cat. no. 42.
Bohlin, Diane DeGrazia. Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné. Exh.cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979. Cat. no. 147.
Chiari, Maria Agnese, and Moretto Wiel. Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994. Cat. no. 3, pp. 22-26. Includes all earlier literature.
Bohn, Babette. The Illustrated Bartsch. Edited by John T. Spike. Vol. 39, Commentary, part 1, Italian Masters of the Sixteenth Century, Agostino Carracci. New York, 1995. Cat. no. 3901.157.
This engraving was printed from three separate copper plates, on three sheets joined by overlapping. The sheets are cut slightly larger than the platemarks. A prominent horizontal crease cuts across the center of all three sheets. It is a very good impression, richly inked with crisp lines and relief. There are no collector's marks or stamps.
1. The lengthy inscription is published in full in Maria Agnese Chiari and Moretto Wiel, Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori (exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994), cat. no. 3, p. 22.
2. Individual plate measurements (from left to right): 20 3/16 x 15 5/8 in. (51.3 x 39.7 cm); 20 1/8 x 15 13/16 in. (51.1 x 40.2 cm); 20 1/8 x 16 (51.1 x 40.6 cm)
3. Jacopo Tintoretto, Crucifixion, 1565, oil on canvas, 53.6 x 122.4 m, Sala dell'Albergio, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice. On this painting, see David Rosand, Painting in Cinquecento Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto (New Haven, 1982), pp. 199-206.
4. On these and other prints by Agostino, see Diane DeGrazia Bohlin, Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979). Her catalogue provides much of the information in this entry.
5. DeGrazia Bohlin resolves the arguments concerning the dating of the print by noting that the last digit of the date on the print is a "9" and not a "2," as it has sometimes been read. (The confusion was caused by a hatching mark across the numeral.) She also relates the style of the print to others done by Agostino during the late 1580s. See Diane DeGrazia Bohlin, Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979), p. 254.
6. Maria Agnese Chiari and Moretto Wiel (Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori [exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994], p. 24) notes the absence of the young man in fur-trimmed garment in the left middle ground and of the red-capped horseman tucked between the two swords at the right, as well as a difference of positioning of the head of the white horse seen in profile at the far right.
7. For a reading of the episodes in Tintoretto's painting, see David Rosand, Painting in Cinquecento Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto (New Haven, 1982), pp. 199-206.
8. The following quotes are all taken from Maria Agnese Chiari and Moretto Wiel, Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori (exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994), pp. 22-24, where they are published in the original Italian. My thanks to Davida Gavioli, Director, Language Lab and Lecturer in Italian, Oberlin College, for providing the translations.
9. Carlo Ridolfi, Le Maraviglie dell'arte (Venice, 1648), ed. D. F. von Hadeln (Berlin, 1914-1924).
10. Marco Boschini, La Carta del navegar pitoresco (Venice, 1660; reprint, ed. Anna Pallucchini, Venice and Rome, 1966).
11. Giovanni Pietro Bellori, Le Vite de' pittori, scultori et architetti moderni (Rome, 1672). DeGrazia Bohlin (Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné [exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979], p. 254) notes that Agostino's son was born about 1590.
12. Carolo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice. Vite de' pittori bolognesi (Bologna, 1678).
13. A. M. Zanetti, Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della città di Venesia (Venice, 1733).
14. See Paolo Bellini, "Printmakers and Dealers in Italy During 16th and 17th Centuries." Print Collector 14 (May-June, 1975), pp. 24 and 33.
15. Diane DeGrazia Bohlin, Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979), p. 499.
16. Diane DeGrazia Bohlin, Prints and Related Drawings by the Carracci Family: A Catalogue Raisonné (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979), p. 254. She notes, however, that Andreas Andresen (Handbuch für Kupferstichsammler, vol. 1 [Leipzig, 1870], pp. 239-43) wrote that the plates were still extant (in 1870), but did not mention any gilding.
17. 49 x 117 cm; reproduced in Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori (exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994), cat. no. 3.1.
18. 51.9 x 118.7 cm; reproduced in Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori (exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994), cat. no. 3.2.
19. 60.6 x 122.7 cm; reproduced in Jacopo Tintoretto e i suoi incisori (exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1994), cat. no. 3.3.