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Cornelis Cort

(1533 Hoorn or Edam – 1578 Rome)

The Descent from the Cross. Engraving after Girolamo Muziano. 28.6 x 21.3 cm. 1568. Bierens de Haan 86, The New Hollstein 64 I (of III). Watermark: Stag on shield with cross (cf. Woodward 51-52, Italy, from 1561).

Cornelis Cort was undoubtedly one of the most significant and influential reproductive engravers of the 16th century. His mastery of the craft set enduring standards of quality which were to leave their mark on the later development of engraving in the Netherlands and Italy. The large number of editions and copies testify to the popularity of his printed work. Cort’s prestige as an engraver was so great that Titian sought him out as a collaborator and in 1565–66 commissioned the artist to execute reproductive engravings after some of his paintings. From 1566 onwards Cort lived in Rome, where he worked for well-known publishers such as Antonio Lafreri and Antonio Salamanca. Artists whose works he engraved include Federico Barocci, the Zuccaro brothers and Girolamo Muziano. In other words, while in Venice and Rome Cort moved in the circles of the greatest artists of his day.

The present engraving is a highly characteristic example of Cort’s Roman period. The Mannerist complexity of the composition is derived from a painting by Muziano, who at that time had become the leading artist in Rome. Using a deft and powerful engraving technique, Cort has translated Muziano’s model convincingly into the black-and-white medium. He has done so unobtrusively, however, without trying to impose his own personal stamp on the original. The dense, richly modulated hatching patterns create effective chiaroscuro effects, which heighten the emotional pathos of the scene. This engraving must have enjoyed great popularity, as in addition to the editions by Lafreri and Pietro de’ Nobili at least three copies are known to exist, one of which was published by the Venetian editor Luca Bertelli.

A superb, luminous and differentiated early impression with numerous scratches of the burin along the platemark (in contrast to the impression in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Amsterdam, reproduced in Hollstein); with even margins. Before the addresses of Lafreri and de Nobilibus. Minimal aging, otherwise in absolutely mint condition. From the collection of Nino Grecchi (not in Lugt).

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