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Ludolf Businck, Bartolomeo Coriolano, Alessandro Gandini, John Baptist Jackson, Giuseppe Nicola Rossigliani, Anton Maria Zanetti

First introduced in Italy around 1516, the chiaroscuro woodcut, which involves printing an image from two or more woodblocks inked in different hues, was one of the most successful early forays into color printing in Europe. Taking its name from the Italian for “light” (chiaro) and “shade” (scuro), the technique creates the illusion of depth through tonal contrasts.

Over the course of the century, the chiaroscuro woodcut underwent sophisticated technical advancements in the hands of talented printmakers such as Ugo da Carpi, Antonio da Trento, Niccolò Vicentino, Nicolò Boldrini, and Andrea Andreani, and engaged some of the most celebrated painters of the time, including Titian, Raphael, and Parmigianino. The medium evolved in format, scale, and subject, testifying to the vital interest of artists and collectors in the range of aesthetic possibilities it offered.

from 'The Chiaroscuro Woodcut in Renaissance Italy'
Naoko Takahatake Jonathan Bober Linda Stiber Morenus Antony Griffiths Peter Parshall
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in association with the National Gallery of Art, 2018.

Above Image: Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder, after Parmigianino. St John the Baptist in the Desert, Chiaroscuro woodcut, 1725

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Ludolf Businck 

Holy Family
238 x 178 mm

Chiaroscuro woodcut

Bartolomeo Coriolano

St Jerome in the Desert

295 x 220 mm

Chiaroscuro woodcut

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Alessandro Gandini

Christ in the house of Simon of Pharisee,
Mary Magdalene washing his feet

255 x 370 mm

Chiaroscuro woodcut

John Baptist Jackson

The Presentation in the Temple, (The Circumcision) after Veronese

530 x 375 mm

Chiaroscuro woodcut

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Giuseppe Nicola Rossigliani

(known as Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino)

The Death of Ajax

310 x 410 mm

Chiaroscuro woodcut

Andrea Andreani (Mantua 1540–1623 Rome)
Andreani was Italy’s leading woodcutter and publisher, active in Siena, Florence, and his native Mantua in the later sixteenth century. Andreani was also a very prolific wood cutter and an outstanding printer, mostly working from drawings (Mantegna) and sculpture (Giambologna), and he was also known for his skillful monumental works, comprising multiple sheets (Mantegna, The Triumph of Julius Caesar). By the early 1600’s, Andreani re-cut and re-printed 29 woodblocks by various artists including Gandini and Vicentino. These later works are identifiable by Andreani’s initials and date.

Ludolf Businck (German, Hannoversch Münden 1599/1602–1669 Hannoversch Münden)
Businck was a German painter, but known more for his chiaroscuro woodcuts. Though not a native of the Netherlands, Businck was greatly influenced by Hendrick Goltzius (Netherlandish, Mühlbracht 1558–1617 Haarlem). Businck demonstrated a Mannerist painterly style using color woodblocks. Most of his woodcuts were after Georges Lallemand (French, Nancy ca.1580–1636 Paris). This chiaroscuro woodcut, after Abraham Bloemaert closely reflects the fluid style of Bloemaert’s drawings.

Bartolomeo Coriolano (Italian, Bologna ca. 1599–ca. 1676 Bologna )
Coriolano, a native of Bologna, trained under the painter Guido Reni (Italian, Bologna 1575–1642 Bologna), one of the leading Baroque artists of the seventeenth century. Coriolano modeled many of his woodblock prints after the work of his teacher. This was a perfect collaboration that lasted from 1627 until Reni’s death in 1642. Guido Reni approved so highly of Coriolano’s intricate chiaroscuro woodcutting technique that in the end,
Reni asked him to reproduce twenty-four of his drawings.

Alessandro Gandini (Italian, active 1545–65)
We know very little about Gandini. He was a resident of Bologna in 1546, 1555 and 1564, and one of the earliest chiaroscuro woodcut artists in Parmigianino’s studio with Antonio da Trento and Niccolò Vicentino; Gandini’s oeuvre consists of only six woodcuts, from which Andrea Andreani later acquired the blocks, reworked, and reprinted them.

John Baptist Jackson (British, 1701 - 1780)
Jackson is England’s foremost woodblock artist who was best known for his revival of the chiaroscuro woodcut. In 1731, the British printmaker arrived in Venice, and found work with printmaker Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder (Italian, Venice 1680–1767 Venice). Jackson impressed his employer with images printed from multiple blocks, dramatically reproducing Venetian Renaissance paintings and sculpture as chiaroscuro woodcuts. He went on to have success designing and cutting woodcuts for various Venetian publishers. Jackson used a rolling press of his own construction for heavy embossing, highlighting areas of his compositions, creating a painterly quality.

Giuseppe Niccolo Rossigliani, known as Niccolo Vicentino (active in Rome and Bologna c 1525-1550)
Giuseppe Niccolo Rossigliani, or Niccolo Vicentino, produced chiaroscuro woodcuts of a discernible character. Around 1525, working in Rome after Raphael’s death, Vicentino follows the painterly style of Ugo da Carpi (Italian, Carpi ca. 1480–1532 Bologna) then probably joined Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma 1503–1540 Casalmaggiore) in Bologna. Vicentino’s woodcuts were after designs by Raphael, Parmigianino, Polidoro da Caravaggio, Perino del Vaga and Salviati. The chiaroscuro woodcut after a drawing by Polidoro da Caravaggio, seen here, belongs to Vicentino’s earlier works from Rome, already showing a cursive, elegant line.

Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder (Italian, Venice 1680–1767 Venice)
Zanetti the Elder was a Venetian artist, engraver, art critic, art dealer and connoisseur. In the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in the chiaroscuro technique in London, Paris and Venice. Zanetti was at the forefront of this revival. In London in 1721, he acquired 130 drawings by Parmigianino. Upon his return to Venice, Zanetti began to experiment with the technique, changing the palette from earth tones to pale pinks, blues and greens and typically using a smaller format, creating chiaroscuro woodcuts after his collection of Parmigianino drawings.

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