- Museum number
Crucifixion; Christ on a cross in centre, with the Virgin and Magdalene within a grieving group at the base; to the left, a group of men strain to raise one of the thieves on a cross, while in the right background the other thief is tethered to a cross on the ground; with numerous figures attending the scene and with several soldiers on horseback; after Tintoretto. 1589
- Production date
Height: 511 millimetres (three plates joined together; trimmed)
Width: 1205 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Michael Bury, 'The Print in Italy 1550-1620', BM 2001, cat.66.
This is one of the masterpieces of sixteenth-century Italian printmaking. The painting from which it is derived is the Crucifixion painted by Tintoretto for the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice in 1565 (Pallucchini and Rossi, 1982, I, pp.189-90, no.283). There are differences. The most important relate to the lightening of the strong chiaroscuro of the original, allowing all the elements to be clearly seen. A few figures, especially in the right and left background have been removed and the landscape is extended in depth, with some added detail. A primary imperative behind the changes seems to have been to create a greater spatial clarity. Most significantly the ambiguity of the location of the Cross is resolved by setting it back more clearly in space.
According to Malvasia, Agostino not only asked Tintoretto's permission to undertake the engraving but also showed him a drawing, asking him to make corrections to it. Malvasia's informant was Alessandro Monti, whose father Bartolomeo had been a printer in Venice, and who had worked for Agostino during his final visit to that city in 1588/89 (1841, I, pp.281-82). Malvasia tells how pleased Tintoretto was with the result, and Bellori adds that he became godfather to Agostino's son Antonio (Bellori, 1976, p.121).
There are problems with this account: Agostino was said to have asked Tintoretto for permission to represent without shoes some figures that wore shoes in the painting. No such changes can be detected (Chiari Moretto Wiel, 1994, p.22, no.3). Chiari Moretto Wiel dismisses the idea that there might have been a relationship between Carracci and Tintoretto of the kind that there had been between Titian and Cort. In this she must certainly be correct: Agostino was an independent master, not someone working for Tintoretto as Cort worked for Titian. Nevertheless it is entirely credible that he would enter into contact with Tintoretto, engage his interest in the project and ask for his help. Some kind of collaboration would be advantageous to both parties.
The address of the Venetian printer and print dealer Donato Rascicotti on the print means that he would have had possession of the plates. On the other hand Agostino Carracci signed the dedication to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando de' Medici. That indicates that he would have been the one to reap the benefit of having his name placed before such an important potential patron, and he would be the recipient of any gift that might be forthcoming. Malvasia tells us that Agostino had made precisely this arrangement with Tibaldi when he worked with him (1841, I, p.267).
Whether Rascicotti suggested to him that he undertake the subject or whether he undertook it on his own initiative, cannot be established. That Agostino did propose projects to Rascicotti is suggested by Malvasia's story, credited to Monti, that Rascicotti regretted having been too mean to take up Carracci's offers to do engravings for him of one of Veronese's Feasts and of Michelangelo's Last Judgement.(1841, I, p.282). These large prints would have taken a considerable time to engrave and financial support from a print dealer like Rascicotti would, no doubt, have been essential.
The claim made on the centre plate that the print was covered by a 15-year privilege from the Venetian Senate, cannot be independently confirmed from documents. It may be significant that a privilege is also claimed on the second state of the Madonna appearing to St Jerome of 1588, the one before the state with Rascicotti's address (see DeGrazia, 1984, p.153, no.146). This would suggest that it was Agostino who had been granted the privilege. The fact that the two other great engravings after Tintoretto that Agostino executed in 1589 do not claim a privilege may not be significant because on them Agostino signed himself only with his initials A.C. suggesting that he had executed them on commission (DeGrazia, 1984, p.155, nos.148 and 149). It is to be hoped that the relevant documents may eventually be traced.
For a copy of this print in reverse see 1895,0211.23.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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