- Museum number
Cain holding a mirror watching his sacrifice in flames with Adam and Eve seated nearby; in the background an angel expelling them from Paradise. c.1530/50
- Production date
Height: 233 millimetres
Width: 317 millimetres
- Curator's comments
M. Cirillo Archer, 'The Illustrated Bartsch', vol. 28, Commentary, New York 1995, no. 2801.003, p. 6:
"Bartsch identified this print as possibly being the one described by Malvasia as a Giulio Bonasone engraving after a design by Amico Aspertini. Although Bartsch rejected the Bonasone attribution, other Bonasone cataloguers, including Huber, Armano, and Cumberland, have not. Heinecken related the Malvasia attribution, and also reported that Michel de Marolles gave it to Agostino Veneziano, but Heinecken himself felt that it was the work of a member of Raimondi's school. Most recently, Massari reaffirmed the Bonasone attribution, claiming stylistic analogies between this print and Bonasone's accepted oeuvre. An examination of the technique used in this print, however, does not support this attribution and, in particular, the hand which drew the contour lines does not appear to have been Giulio's.
Bartsch believed it entirely possible that Aspertini engraved this plate himself. Schmidt (1878, p. 338) agreed. Oberhuber (1966, p. 171) felt that the untrained engraving technique supported that possibility. The title given to this print by Bartsch ['The Sacrifice of Cain'] is inadequate. As Oberhuber noted, the sacrifice burning on the altar is a lamb and therefore the sacrifice of Abel, not Cain. In the background one sees the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise and to their left the Tree of Knolwedge with the serpent. Oberhuber suggested that this bizarre composition represents an allegory of the Fall and Redemption, with the sacrificial lamb symbolizing Christ.
[examples in]: Berlin; Hamburg (851); London; Paris BN (Eb6a res); Vienna.
[Lit.]: C.C. Malvasia  1841, 'Felsina Pittrice: Vite de' pittori bolognesi', ed. G. Zanotti, 2 vols., Bologna, p. 62; C. H. Heinecken, 'Dictionnaire des Artistes', 4 vols. [Leipzig 1778-90], New York 1970, vol. 1, p. 391, no. 5; G. Cumberland, 'Some anecdotes of the Life of Julio Bonasoni, a Bolognese artist.......Accompanied by a Catalogue of the Engravings....', London 1793, p. 63; M. Huber, 'Handbuch für Kunstlieberhaber und Sammler...', 9 vols. Zurich 1796-1808, vol. 3, p. 124, no. 4; G. Gori Gandellini, 'Notizie Istoriche degli intagliatori', Siena  1808-15, 2nd ed., vol. 7, p. 64; G. Armano, 'Catalogo di una serie preziosa della stampe di Giulio Bonasone..., Rome 1820, p. 54, no. 299; J. D. Passavant, 'Le peintre Graveur', Leipzig 1860-64, vol. 6. p. 74, no. 3; [K. Oberhuber, 'Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Renaissance in Italien: 16 Jahrhundert', exh. cat., Vienna 1966, p. 171]; S. Massari, 'Giulio Bonasone', exh.cat., 2 vols., Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Rome 1983, vol. 1, p. 87."
For much more exhaustive literature and entry see M. Faietti in M. Faietti-D. Scaglietti, 'Amico Aspertini', Modena 1995, IV.3, pp. 332-3:
Faietti includes this print among those after designs by Amico Aspertini and she also believes the engraver to be Agostino Veneziano, on the basis of both the early indications by Bartsch and De Marolle, and on her finding of Agostino's monogram on the example of this print in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris (Eb 6a. res.). Faietti indicates also another impression in Rome (G.N.S. Inv. F.C. 31504).
She catalogues it as an 'Allegory of the Expulsion from Paradise and of Abel's sacrifice' and, after reporting the different interpretations given by art historians down the centuries, she suggests that the somewhat complicated iconography could summarize the history of mankind from the original sin (exemplified by the 'Expulsion' and the necessity of work: Adam on the far left with a hoe and Eve on the far right with a spindle), to the redemption given by Christ's sacrifice (a prefiguration of which is represented by Abel's offering of the lamb). Faietti does not think the man at the centre of the composition to be Cain, rather an indication of the human condition after the original sin, as she believes the mirror to be a symbol of prudence, in this case interpreted as knowledge of good and evil; and it was the promise of such knowledge by the serpent to induce Eve to eat the prohibited fruit (for further observations see Faietti's entry, cit.).
For another weaker impression but with wider margins see 1842,0806.24
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- 1837 (before)
- Acquisition notes
- Although this print is inscribed on the verso with Cracherode's initials in Philipe's hand, its conditions are very much untypical of Cracherode's collection and suggest a different provenance
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number