- Museum number
'Il perdono di San Francesco': Christ, flanked by the Virgin and St Augustine, appearing to St Francis as he kneels at prayer in the chapel of the Portiuncula. 1581
- Production date
Height: 536 millimetres
Width: 322 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Michael Bury, 'The Print in Italy 1550-1620', BM 2001, cat.44.)
Barocci executed the painting, to which this print relates, for the high altar of the church of the Observant [corrected by Michael Bury to Conventual] Franciscans of Urbino in the years 1574-76 (Emiliani, 1985, I, pp.104-15). It represents Christ instituting the plenary indulgence of the Portiuncula. The inscription at the lower left of the print tells of the contract between Christ and Francis for the indulgence to be granted to those who visited the chapel of the Portiuncula near Assisi on 1 and 2 August each year. The importance of this indulgence had been revived by the Franciscan [corrected by Michael Bury to Dominican] Pope, Pius V (1566-72), who ordered the construction of the immense church of Santa Maria degli Angeli around the original small chapel; work began in 1569 (L. Arcangeli, in Dal Poggetto, 1992, pp.363-65).
Barocci applied for and was granted a 10-year papal privilege covering this print. It is dated 11 January 1581 and cites Barocci's petition as saying that it had been done 'to excite the devotion of those who believe in Christ', (ASVat., Sec. Brev. 69, f. 7v.-8r). Although the summary heading of the document refers to a prohibition on printing, what is striking about the text of the privilege, and differentiates it from others issued around the same time, is that it forbids anyone from engraving or from having engraved the subject of the Perdono without Barocci's permission (it forbids anyone from 'dictum mysterium in aes incidere seu incidi facere'). On the face of it, this is broader in its coverage than the usual prohibitions on making copies of an existing plate or design. There is no mention at all of prohibitions on the printing, selling or holding for sale of impressions without Barocci's permission, as is the case with other equivalent privileges granted by Gregory XIII and his successors. The purpose of the privilege was to guarantee a monopoly over representations of the subject.
In the light of this, and taking into account the emphasis on the didactic and devotional aspects of the image and its inscriptions, one might tentatively conclude that the painter made the plate in partnership with the Franciscans. The purpose of the privilege would have been to ensure that the Franciscans did not commission alternative plates. As the plate is not listed in Barocci's inventory of c.1612, it will have been the Franciscans who handled the printing and distribution of impressions.
If the Perdono were done as the result of some kind of agreement with the Franciscans, and the two small plates done in preparation for it, this would provide a motive for the sudden and rather surprising emergence of Barocci as a printmaker. It is a very remarkable achievement with its complex light effects and, in the heavenly zone, the contrast between the physical solidity of the protagonists and the ethereal space behind. He is able to use his newly developed technique of stoppping-out for a powerfully expressive effect.
(Mihael Bury subsequently recorded the suggestion by Peter Parshall that in doing this, Barocci may have been helped by a professional etcher.)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001/2 Sep-Jan, BM, P&D, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
2002 Feb-Mar, New York, Miriam & Ira D Wallach AG, The Print in Italy
2002/3 Sep-Jan, Ottawa, NG of Canada, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
2003 Feb-April, Edinburgh, NG Scotland, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
2012/3 Oct-Jan, Saint Louis Art Museum, Federico Barocci
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number