Childs Gallery is pleased to have acquired a collection of prints of the Roman High Renaissance featuring almost 40 engravings from the workshop of Marcantonio Raimondi (c.1480-c.1534), many of which were executed in close association with Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) and his studio. As Raphael is generally viewed as one of the most influential artists of the Renaissance, and as Marcantonio was chiefly responsible for the dissemination of his ideas during this period, this collection offers a rare insight into the creation, development, and business of art during the early sixteenth century-issues that make the Renaissance such an exciting period to study and collect.
This superb collection of prints came to Childs Gallery from the Michael Berolzheimer Collection, assembled in Germany between 1910 and 1933, just before Berolzheimer emigrated to the United States. The breadth of the collection is remarkable: it spans the entire career of Marcantonio, illustrating the evolution of his style and the influence of his reproductive engraving technique on subsequent artists. The Achenbach Foundation of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco acquired approximately half of this collection in 1998. Robert Flynn Johnson, curator, noted: "Examining the collection was like opening a time capsule. The prints were matted on the thin paper mats with cellophane windows popular with prewar collectors. They were not only authentic but extraordinary…."
Now, much of the balance of the Berolzheimer Collection can be seen at Childs. Many of these prints have not been offered for sale in generations, and more importantly, the majority of these brilliant impressions are lifetime, printed prior to the Sack of Rome in 1527, when the ink still had that rich, "oily" quality characteristic of the earliest impressions.
As Innis Shoemaker points out in Engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi (The Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, 1981), Marcantonio had created an entirely new direction for the art of engraving. In Rome by 1510, he established a financially and artistically successful school of engravers who could accurately reproduce paintings, drawings, and frescos as prints. By 1513, while almost exclusively engraving the works of Raphael, he developed the means of reproductive engraving. Although he was not the first to render the work of a painter into engraving, his technique was one that could be easily assimilated by other artists through succeeding generations. In order to convey the feeling of the original design, Marcantonio "changed engraving from a medium that imitated pen and silverpoint drawing, toward one that would approximate the effects of painting and sculptural form." His style combined the modeling techniques of Albrecht Dürer with the fine atmospheric effects of Lucas van Leyden. It was well suited to what Elizabeth Broun calls "the dual function of the reproductive print." First, the print needed to record the design of others, and second, it needed to present motifs for the convenience of future artists to use. In this way, Marcantonio's prints became the "established conduits for the new classical style" in Rome during the Renaissance.
Recent scholarship has opened windows into the intricate and intimate relationships between the workshop of Raphael and the workshop of Marcantonio. Unlike Dürer, who engraved his own plates, there is no evidence that Raphael personally made plates for printing. Peter Parshall and David Landau in The Renaissance Print 1470-1550 (Yale University Press, 1994) speculate that the workshop of the engraver was considered an extension of the workshop of the artist during the Renaissance. The complexity of the relationships between the studio of Raphael and that of Marcantonio is compounded by the introduction of plates engraved by Agostino Musi (Agostino Veneziano) (1490-1540) and Marco Dente da Ravenna (1493-1527), both of whom worked in Marcantonio's studio and engraved plates that they identified as their own. In addition, Marcantonio's workshop produced replicas or duplicate plates of Raphael's designs (perhaps surreptitiously) at the same time as the ones that were engraved for Raphael. Unlike the later reproductive engravers who created prints after completed drawings or paintings of other artists, Marcantonio's prints were always related to the small drawings, or modelli, provided by the workshop of Raphael with the specified intent to be engraved, often commissioned concurrently with the execution of the original work. One of Raimondi's masterpieces, Apollo on Parnassus, c.1517-1520, is such a print. It is based on a lost preparatory study for Raphael's fresco in the Stanza della Segnatura, and it preserves Raphael's early ideas for the fresco and records his working process. It is markedly different than the completed work. Raphael's studio was further involved in the process of printmaking as Raphael's assistant handled the printing and marketing, while Raphael and his business manager owned the plates. Therefore Raimondi's prints made for Raphael and his studio were executed in order to promote and disseminate the artist's works and ideas, and both Raphael and Raimondi played integral roles in this process. Following Raphael's death in 1520, Marcantonio continued to engrave the works by his circle, notably Giulio Romano, until the Sack of Rome in 1527, when he left the city without a trace.
According to Shoemaker, Marcantonio's style of engraving is characterized by four distinct phases, each well represented by the Berolzheimer Collection at Childs Gallery. From Marcantonio's arrival in Rome c. 1510 until roughly 1515, his beginning style is character ized by a "rather refined technique, although the areas of modeled forms are still at times flattened, and show some confusion in the direction of the curvature of the lines outlining the forms." The quintessential Renaissance print, God Appearing to Noah, c.1513-1515, dates from this phase. It is after a fresco in the vault of Stanza d' Eliodoro by Raphael and it represents the Michelangelesque style of Raphael's compositions evident immediately after the opening of the Sistine Chapel to the public in October 1513.
By 1515, Marcantonio reached his second phase, which was characterized by the development of his systemized technique of engraving, in which he displayed an increasing experimentation with the chiaroscuro and atmospheric effects in an effort to reproduce the effect of the painting. His series of The Seven Virtues, c.1515-1520, dates from this phase, and as described by Shoemaker shows that "the systematic sequence of cross-hatching, curving parallel lines and dots is applied with consistency and without confusion to such forms as legs, arms, necks and faces…. It was during this period of his work after Raphael that Marcantonio grasped the full potential of engraving technique that could both create sculptural forms and volumes, and also suggest an almost atmospheric ambience for their existence."
His third, or high classical phase, from c.1517-1520 is characterized by his fully developed style and technique, which "seems to match the grandeur of the Raphael modelli." This strength and clarity of technique can be seen in Man Carrying the Base of a Column, c.1517-1520, which was based on ancient models reworked by Raphael in his own idiom. Combined with Marcantonio's translation of the figures and compositions into his bold and highly regularized techniques, he seems to have returned to the more static, idealized classicism of the ancient prototypes.
Marcantonio's final phase, following the death of Raphael in 1520 until the sack of Rome, is evidenced by the prints he engraved after the modelli of Giulio Romano and others from Raphael's studio. His "stylistic predilection for powerful sculptural forms, dramatic lighting effects, and the standardization of the fleeting or momentary" can be seen in such works as the Hercules and Antaeus, c.1520-1522, and The Virgin with the Long Thigh, c.1520-1525. In these prints, the technique is "almost regularized to the point of severity, the lines are bold, deeply cut and evenly spaced and seem to surround even more brilliant areas of highlight…. The figures in the cool severity of the classical setting, display a solid, almost static grandeur, without the movement inherent in Marcantonio's figures after Raphael."
Marcantonio's engravings remain of paramount importance today because of his close association with Raphael, one of the most influential artists to emerge from the Renaissance. Marcantonio's prints spread the images of Raphael and other artists throughout Europe, disseminating the ideas of the Renaissance in the revived language of the classical style. As Broun points out, Marcantonio's new style created "motifs for the convenience of future artists, and he worked to translate genius into method, providing artists with an index of useful forms derived from the dramatic visual language being created in Rome." In doing so, Marcantonio's prints after Raphael chronicle the development of the Renaissance and inspired artists for generations.