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The Death of Lucretia. Chiaroscuro woodcut in grey. 27.2 x 32.7 cm. 1612. Hollstein 1 III.
Paulus Moreelse, a portraitist and history painter from Utrecht, left a very small printed œuvre comprising just four works that include two chiaroscuro woodcuts treated in an mannerist idiom. Hendrick Goltzius took the woodcut technique to new heights in Haarlem in the 1580s and 1590s, while Abraham Bloemaert, who also hailed from Utrecht, was likewise keenly interested in the medium.
The depiction of Lucretia’s suicide is charged with great inner pathos. The virtuous heroine lies dying, having dealt herself a mortal blow with a dagger. Her chair has toppled over, causing a panic-stricken elderly servant to come rushing in. The dramatic nature of the occurrence notwithstanding, the scene is rendered with a lightness and elegance that are all but mannerist in character. The filigree calligraphic style of the line block is remarkable and both the tone blocks provide a degree of chromatic intensity. The work in its entirety radiates a considerable artistic refinement. The woodcut is rare; moreover, the present, very fine impression is of excellent quality and in mint condition, with the lower text margin in block print, which is trimmed in many of the known impressions.
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