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Gaetano Gandolfi

(1734 San Matteo della Decima – 1802 Bologna)

The Adoration of the Shepherds. Etching in black and grey ink on laid paper. 21 x 16.5 cm. Unrecorded.

The painter and engraver, Gaetano Gandolfi, grew up in a family of artists. He was the pupil of his elder brother, Ubaldo Gandolfi, and of Ercole Lelli at the Accademia Clementina in Bologna and, in 1760, spent a year studying in Venice, where he was influenced in particular by the work of Giambattista Tiepolo. After his return to Bologna, Gandolfi became one of the most sought-after decoration and fresco painters of his time. Contemporaries reserved especial esteem for his anatomical, compositional and head studies in pen and ink, pencil and pastel. His position as a teacher at the Bologna Academy enabled him to exert a decisive influence on the work of the generations of artists who came after him. Moreover, Gandolfi produced a quite extensive printed oeuvre comprising reproductive engravings as well as works of his own invention. It is strange, however, that research into Gandolfi’s high-quality printmaking is so fragmentary and that even today there is still no definitive catalogue of his works. De Vesme records a further Adoration of the Shepherds, but that is a reproductive print after Niccolò dell’Abbate, whereas the present monogrammed print after Gaetano’s own invention reveals the Late Baroque sty­listic features that are characteristic of his work.

The night-time scene is filled with a turbulent inner dynamism and is remarkable for the vigorous calligraphic linework. Gandolfi’s etching technique is correspondingly spirited and light; the effectively gradated values of the aquatint produce a vibrant, dramatically flickering chiaroscuro effect. The print is of exquisite rarity and not included in the collection of the Gabinetto delle Stampe at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna. The etching is also available in an impression in red and brown with a lighter bite.

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