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Tomb of a Bishop. Etching. 35.1 x 25 cm. Bartsch XVI, 184, 13; Meyer, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, II, 37, 21.
Battista del Moro’s printed work is stylistically very varied and multifarious, which makes an exact classification of his œuvre very difficult. Nevertheless a certain chronology may be derived from the fact that the early prints are generally executed in a schematic, at times somewhat dry engraving technique, whereas in the mature work the artist turned mainly to etching. These prints are done with a very spontaneous and light touch and reveal a typically Venetian feeling for atmospheric effect. The example of Andrea Meldolla’s free, picturesque etching style probably exerted a decisive influence.
In the past the composition of this rare etching was associated with Parmigianino, but this assumption is considered to be far from irrefutable. Although the print reveals a strange synthesis of figural, architectural and sculptural elements, the suggestion of a real tomb has been clearly subordinated to the picturesque effect. The figure of the casually reclining bishop, who is supporting the weight of his body on his left elbow, is treated in a very fluid and gentle manner in no way suggestive of an image hewn from stone. The same could be said of the two mourning cherubs who flank him. The two putti at the front of the sarcophagus, who are holding a tablet with an enigmatic inscription, also seem to be full of life. With true Mannerist exaggeration the whole is filled with an almost exhilarating inner energy. Finally, in the bottom section of the picture, we see in a relatively confined space a group of churchmen who are taking part in the consecration of a bishop and are drawn in a very free and restless manner.
A superb, rich and contrasting impression from the uncleaned plate, which produces subtle tonal gradations. With narrow margins around the inky platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent, unrestored condition.