Domenico Beccafumi, An Apostle, a woodcut

Italy, AD 1540s

A chiaroscuro woodcut printed from three blocks

This powerful figure standing on the edge of a pavement in strong sunlight looks more like a piece of architectural sculpture than a woodcut. Heavy masses of drapery delineate an S-shaped curve which balances the stony bulk. The figure is one of a series of apostles by Beccafumi (1486-1551) who can usually be identified by an attribute, though not in this example.

Beccafumi sought to capture in prints the tones of dark wash and white heightening of his drawings. For this apostle, Beccafumi used three blocks. He cut away the highlights from the muscular torso, beard and drapery, and printed his first block with pale yellow ink. From a second block, he printed only broad areas of shadow, with a texture of vertical strokes over the background. Finally he cut and printed a third block with the shapes and accents of the darkest shadows. Another impression in the Department of Prints and Drawings is printed in tones of grey-blue ink. Beccafumi achieved these remarkable results at the height of his success as Siena's greatest sixteenth-century painter, and presumably intended them to carry his fame beyond the bounds of his home town.

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More information


D. Landau and P. Parshall, The Renaissance print 1470-155 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994)


Height: 413.000 mm
Weight: 211.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1868-6-12-11 (Passavant 9)



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