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Nicolas Beatrizet

(Engraver from Lorraine, active in Rome between ca. 1540–1566)

Jesus Standing, Holding the Cross. Engraving after Michelangelo. 44.1 x 21.2 cm.  B. XV, 250, 23.

After moving to Rome in about 1540, Nicolas Beatrizet worked first as an engraver for local publishers such as Antonio Salamanca and Tommaso Barlacchi. Between 1547 and 1560 the artist was employed in the influential printing house of Antonio Lafreri before becoming an independent publisher himself about 1558. Under the influence of Enea Vico and Giorgio Ghisi, Beatrizet gradually acquired a refined and technically highly developed engraving style, as the present sheet after Michelangelo clearly shows. The legend in the lower margin tells us that the work appea red in Beatrizet’s own publishing house. An extremely disciplined, precise system of dense cross-hatching, curved and wavy parallel-hatching and fine stippling creates a high degree of threedimensionality and finish. Beatrizet has deliberately chosen a neutral background, thus enabling the figure of Christ to stand out strongly and clearly against the white surface of the paper.

The model for the engraving – Michelangelo’s sculpture in the Roman church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva – originated in Florence in 1519–20 and was transferred in 1521 in an unfinished state to Rome, where the statue was completed by Michelangelo’s pupil, Pietro Urbino. Although tradition has it that Michelangelo himself was dissatisfied with the final result and even contemplated a new version, the sculpture is still impressive for its grandezza modelled on antique sculpture, which is totally in keeping with the profane spirit of the High Renaissance. Michelangelo shows Christ not in agony, but in triumphal pose, confronting the beholder in heroic nudity. In the morally repressive climate of the Counter-Reformation, however, this utterly unorthodox and liberal interpretation met with little approval, and in the 17th century the figure was provided with a disfiguring metal drape over the part objected to. Interestingly enough, Beatrizet had obviously recognized the signs of the times and bowed to the new mood of prudishness, for he took it upon himself to change Michelangelo’s invention and showed Christ wearing a carefully knotted loincloth.

A brilliant, precise and contrasting early impression with narrow margins around the inky platemark, the auxiliary lines for the inscription still clearly discernible. Minor thin spots on the verso, very few minor defects, otherwise in very good condition. From the collection of Paul Davidsohn (Lugt 654).

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