Washington, DC—The union of extraordinary imagination with pioneering execution in 16th-century Italian printmaking will be celebrated in a focused exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. On view in the West Building from June 7 through October 4, 2015, Recent Acquisitions of Italian Renaissance Prints: Ideas Made Flesh features some 30 engravings, etchings, woodcuts, and illustrated books by or after the designs of celebrated Renaissance artists acquired by the Gallery in the last four years.


“These exquisite works remind us not only the fundamental role of Italian prints in the origin and transmission of European visual style, but their own brilliant aesthetic qualities,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington.


Italian Renaissance prints are treasured for their sophisticated invention and composition, as opposed to the celebrated craft and material beauty of northern European prints. The exhibition will showcase a rare selection of prints from this period that not only express complex ideas and demonstrate extravagant design, but also reveal the distinctive visual appeal, even the sensuous form, their complex content could assume.


Recent Acquisitions of Italian Renaissance Prints: Ideas Made Flesh is arranged in two galleries according to broad chronological development and regional centers of production. The exhibition opens with two books: Robertus Valturius’s treatise on military equipment (Verona, 1472), the very first book with technical illustrations, and the Hypnerotomachia Polifili (Venice, 1499), considered by many the most beautiful of all Italian books. It continues with choice examples from early 16th-century Rome, notably a group of extravagant designs by the virtuoso sculptor Baccio Bandinelli, unusually fluent engravings by Gian Giacomo Caraglio, and prints in several techniques that convey the supernaturally elegant style of Francesco Parmigianino, which became the foundation of a European court style.


The second gallery represents developments in the second half of the 16th century in northern Italy: the greater naturalism, and closer approximation of pictorial values, of printmakers in Venice and the cities of her territories; the lavish plates and bravura technique of Giorgio Ghisi and the engravers of the school of Mantua; and the emphasis upon more accessible subjects and convincing religious expression in the prints following the Counter-Reformation, notably those of the Carracci family in Bologna. Highlights in this section include Cornelis Cort’s engraving The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr, after Titian (1567), Nicolò Boldrini’s multiblock color woodcutHercules and the Nemean Lion (c. 1566), and Annibale Carracci’s extremely rare engraving The Crucifixion (1581).



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