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Agostino Carracci

(1557 Bologna – 1602 Parma)

The Crucifixion. Engraving from three plates. 52.1 x 40.6 cm (left); 54.7 x 40.4 cm (centre); 52.2 x 40.6 cm (right). 1589. Bartsch 23; DeGrazia Bohlin 147 II.

This impressive, monumental engraving is Carracci’s tech­nically most complex work and his undisputed printmaking masterpiece. Jacopo Tintoretto’s painting in the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, completed in 1565, served as the design for the famous engraving. According to Boschini, the prestige Carracci earned through this superb technical achievement was such that Tintoretto himself felt that, in artistic terms, the engraving was on a par with the original painting. Carracci produced the outstanding engraving in 1589, about two and a half decades after the emergence of the prototype. This was at a time when the artist was in full possession of his technical powers as an engraver and studied Tintoretto’s work in greater detail. There is a fine anecdote told by Giovanni Pietro Bellori (Le vite de pittori, scultori et architetti moderni, Rome 1672, p. 110) that Tintoretto, as a sign of his appreciation for Carracci’s engraving, acted as godfather to his son Antonio, who was born in 1590.

The observer’s gaze can feast on the innumerable anecdotal details and the acutely observed interactions of the numerous protagonists, who are rendered accurately and with the utmost confidence. Deep religious pathos and genre-like occurrences merge to form a narrative synthesis and produce a compelling and lasting visual impact. A very fine, perfectly even and homogeneous impression of the final state. With the address of the Venetian publisher, Donato Rasicotti (active in the 1580s and 1590s). Only one impression of the first, partially incomplete state has survived, which is now in the British Museum in London. Unobtrusive traces of smoothed folds on the verso, not visible on the recto, minor ageing and traces of handling, overall however – considering the size of the sheet – in excellent condition.

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